Posted by: David Vernon | May 3, 2010

Depth of Field Made Shallow

Kenmare Signs

Depth of Field is one of those things that’s difficult to get a grasp on for new shooters. Here’s three tips – AND A VIDEO – to drive it home for you if you want shallow depth of field (i.e. not much in focus).

Depth of Field refers to how much of a scene is in focus – in addition to your subject. That is – how far does focus fall in front of and behind your subject. A shallow depth of field means that very little will be in focus beyond your subject and that it’s even possible for bits of your subject to be soft. When you extend depth of field, more and more context comes into focus. Look at the image above – of some signs in a roundabout in Ireland. The signs are in focus and so is almost everything behind that. We owe that to a deep depth of field.

So – what controls DOF? Three things:

  1. Aperture – a large aperture opening (i.e. a small aperture number like f/2 or f/2.8) gives you the shallowest depth of field
  2. Focal Length – a longer focal length gives you a shallower depth of field
  3. Distance to Subject – being closer to your subject gives you a shallower depth of field

Mark Wallace has an excellent tutorial with examples over on Adorama TV. It’s a good lesson on shallow depth of field and how to knock it outta the park. It’s not embeddable, so head on over to the link to watch.

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