Photo Tutorial – What is Depth of Field ?

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Article and photos by Danielle Skerman

Depth of Field? what the heck is that? This is the response I initially get when I first start to explain it!

In a nutshell, Depth of Field (DOF)is the area that is IN focus in your photo! The blurry bit is the ‘out of focus bits’ Look at picture 1, and you can see this demonstrated.

If it is a teeny weenie bit out of focus in the industry we like to call that just a bit ‘soft’ lol.. just another jargon of photographer talk for you!

OK, back to depth of field. How do you control it and make it work for you? Let us first look at how to get the blurry background look to get this you need to have a small or shallow DOF. To achieve this, it can be done in two ways.. the technical way and the simple way. The simple way is often the most used, however often doesn’t create as much of a dramatic result as you might like.

So what are the ways you ask! Well, the technical way is in the lens the f-stop or aperture has to be wide opens and the simple way is to use a zoom lens at full zoom!

For those who would like to understand the technical way its to do with the size of the f-stop or aperture – how wide the shutter (the shutter is the cover to the area that captures the image. It always opens in a circular manner) opens when taking a photo. The wider it is results in the smaller or more shallow is the area that is going to be in focus. The smaller it is the larger the area that is going to be in focus. The confusing part (sorry to do this to you! ) is that smaller the f number the larger the hole is.. or the larger the number the smaller the hole! The two diagrams below might help give you a better understanding of what this is.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.49.06 pmSo how does this help me, you may ask? Well, if you are wanting to take a beautiful photo of your gorgeous horses head and would like to have it all blurry in the background you’ll need a small DOF or use a small number like f2 or f4 on the lens (hmm.. now days its in the digital camera bit! Often seen as a AV control, you’ll need to know your camera for that! ) Having said that, if you are trying to photograph your horse in action, go for a larger number or greater area in focus. This is because it is too easy to miss the important parts in focus! Nothing is more annoying that a cracking great shot…. out of focus!

OK… back to the easier way! Step back and zoom right in! When using zoom lenses they naturally reduce the focus plain with the telephoto lenses. Therefore, when you put the lens in full zoom it automatically reduces the DOF. However isn’t always as blurry, but it will do the job! For optimum results do the two together!

Large Depth of Field. Meaning the area in focus is of a large area and you can see more of the image in detail.
Large Depth of Field. Meaning the area in focus is of a large area and you can see more of the image in detail.
Small or shallow depth of field. Meaning the area that is in focus is small/shallow making the background out of focus.
Small or shallow depth of field. Meaning the area that is in focus is small/shallow making the background out of focus.

 

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