A Guide to Depth of Field

Let’s First Talk Aperture


Aperture is the opening on the inside of the lens where light is coming in to hit the camera sensor. The way in which you adjust the size of this opening is by selecting the f-number on your camera. Adjusting the f-stop will affect two things:

1) Light

2) Depth of field

small f-stop (ie. f2) | wide opening/aperture | more light coming in | shallower depth of field

large f-stop (ie. f22) | narrow opening/aperture | less light coming in | deeper depth of field

Keep in mind, your f-stop range is dependent on the lens you’re using. For example, my 24-105mm lens has an aperture range of f4-f22. My 50mm lens has a range of f1.8-f22. 


Show Perspective with Deep Depth of Field




To help create perspective in a photograph, sometimes I like to position a person somewhere in my landscape shot. In the photo above, you can see someone with a red backpack climbing up the side of the mountain. When you compare the person to the surrounding landscape, you’re able to grasp just how big the mountains are.

This shot is considered to have deep depth of field. The focus is deep into the photo. You can achieve deep depth of field by using larger f-stops such as f/10, f/14, f/16, etc.


Experiment with the Foreground




I love blurring out the foreground just as much as the background. This can give you some cool shots especially if you use it well. I was helping shoot a wedding last summer and was getting some shots from the back of the church. I happened to glance back over my shoulder and saw the flower girl patiently waiting her turn. It looked like such an angelic shot that I quickly repositioned myself to capture it. I wanted the wall as my foreground to help give a little more context and show that she was about to step into the aisle.

This shot has a shallow depth of field. Only my subject is in focus while everything else is blurred out. Remember, shallow depth of field is associated with small f-stops.


Isolate Your Subject



Using a shallow depth of field is a good way to isolate your subject. If I’m taking up close photos or I want my subject to pop, I’ll use a small f-stop, like f2 or f4 in order to get that blurry background.




When I’m shooting landscapes, I tend to go a little higher with my f-stop giving my photo a deep depth of field. Typically my range is from f11-f14, but this varies depending on the situation.


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