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Shallow vs. Deep Depth of Field

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Shallow vs. Deep Depth of Field

When taking a picture, your depth of field plays an important role. A shallow depth of field will blur the background enhancing your subject while a deep dept of field will keep your background and subject in balance.

This article will provide tips on how to get both effects and when they will be most appropriate.

What is Depth of Field?

Depth of field measures how blurry or sharp the area around your subject is. A shallow depth of field will show the subject in focus and the background blurred. It’s ideal for portraits and it can be achieved by adjusting the aperture.

A deep depth of field will keep the image sharp throughout. It is best for landscapes. It can be achieved with a large aperture.

While aperture plays the biggest role in depth of field, it will also be affected by the distance between the camera and the subject, the focal length of the lens and the size of the camera’s sensor.

What is Aperture?

Aperture is the opening of the lens that allows light to pass through. When you hit the shutter release, a hole opens to capture the image. The aperture is the size of that hole. It affects the image’s exposure and focus.

A larger hole will allow more light in while a smaller hole lets less light in. A larger aperture tends to produce a blurry image while a smaller aperture tends to produce a sharp image.

Aperture is measures in F stops that are written in numbers like 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The higher the number is, the smaller the aperture will be.

If your f/stop is low, it will create blur in your photo which can be ideal if you want your subject in focus and the background blurred. Alternately, a high f/stop will keep everything in focus making for a deep or large depth of field.

If you change your aperture, you will need to set your shutter speed and ISO accordingly.

Camera Subject Distance

The distance your camera is from your subject will also affect depth of field. If you are close to your subject, you will get a shallow depth of field with a blurry background. If you are further away, the entire image will come out sharp.

Focal Length

If you are using a wide-angle lens or a short focal length, you will get a deeper depth of field while a telephoto lens has a longer focal length and will get you a shallow depth of field. The longer the lens is, the blurrier the subject will be.

However, camera distance will balance this. So, if you are working with a telephoto lens and don’t want the blur, try backing away from your subject.

Depth of field is important in the overall aesthetic of your photos. Now that you know how to achieve the look you are going for, you can move forward with getting some terrific shots. Good luck getting your images looking their best!

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