Depth of Field Explained – What it is & What You Need to Know!

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What is Depth of Field?

Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appears acceptably sharp in an image.

In other words, it’s how much of the photo that is in sharp focus relative the out of focus areas of the image.

Lens aperture as well and lens focal length play a significant role in how much depth of field there is in a respective photo.  Wider apertures have less depth of field (less in focus), narrower apertures have greater depth of field (more in focus).  Lenses with longer focal lengths offer greater compression to your images and have less depth of field while wider angle lenses and focal lengths give greater depth of field.

Here is an example demonstrating what depth of field is:
Focused on the pole, with 50 1.4 Lens.  From left to right these photos were taken at – f/1.4,  f/4 & f/16.  Note: This is Depth of Field, how much of the “non-focused” areas are out of focused

what is depth of field?

Here are some common examples of when you’d want a shallow depth of field vs. having a lot of depth of field:

  • Shallow depth of field – Subject isolation, head-shots, portraits, to blur out “ugly” backgrounds etc…
  • A lot of depth of field – Large group portraits, expansive landscapes, architecture and any other time you want a large portion of the photo in focus.

 Now it’s your turn!

Go grab your camera with a favorite lens.  Set your camera on aperture priority mode and while having your camera on a tripod (if you need the stability, otherwise handheld is fine) take 3 photos, at the same lens focal length, at 3 different apertures.  For best results take the photo where your subject or test object is far away from the background.

  • Shot 1: At the widest aperture setting (f/1.8 if you have a 1.8 prime lens)
  • Shot 2: At f/8
  • Shot 3: At f/16

What are your results when comparing the different photos?

The results should show you what exactly depth of field is as your subject and focus point should be in focus in ALL 3 photos, but, the background (non-focused areas) should be different levels of blur.  The wide open aperture should give the most blurred background while the f/16 should have much less background blur.

I hope this quick tutorial helped you unmask the mystery around what exactly depth of field is and what you need to know about it.

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