If you’re newer to photography, the phrase ‘Depth of Field’ might be new to you. If you look at a photo, you’ll notice the subject of the image is in focus, while parts of the image in front of and behind the subject are all out of focus. The depth of field is the area that is in focus.
Establishing an appropriate depth of field (DoF) will help create visually strong images that aid in telling the story for your client. Creating depth of field in your photographs doesn’t have to be hard and requires 3 main areas for you to keep in mind. The three areas to composing a great DoF are aperture setting, focal length and the distance to your subject.
To keep it short and sweet for you…
Large aperture = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field
Small aperture = Larger f-number = Deeper (larger) depth of field
This is the basics of the aperture settings. The actual settings you select will depend on where you are shooting (remember, aperture also affects how much light you let in which changes how bright your images are), so it’s best to take time to play with different settings to find the one that will work best for your desired look.
The focal length is a measure of your lens’s ability to magnify a scene. Grab a lens that you own and take a look at the two number. The lower number is the lens’s wide-angle mode and the higher number is its telephoto. Basically, the more you magnify your subject, the shallower the depth of field becomes. When shooting with a normal or wide-angle lens, you have a lot of depth of field. If you zoom in to a telephoto magnification, your depth of field will drop dramatically.
Your distance to the subject determines how much depth of field you can get in your scene. If you are photographing a subject that is quite far away, the depth of field will need to be greater so the subject is in focus. Also, when shooting a subject further away, more of the image, in general, will be in focus to accommodate. If your subject is up close, your depth of field will need to be smaller and more precise to ensure your subject is in focus.
To calculate your depth of field, you can use online resources or apps. But, I believe the best way to gain a good understanding on depth of field is to grab your camera and play. Try changing your f/stop and capturing multiple shots with different f/shop number and play with moving closer and further away from your subject. Compare the images and see which ones best match the style you are looking for. It’s only through playing that you can really begin to understand and implement a depth of field that works for you.
How do you use depth of field to create powerful images?