Photography - Knowledge

Understanding and Shooting with a Shallow Depth of Field: Perfect Hacks to Know

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Have you recently bought a high-end DSLR camera of a reputed brand to capture the memorable moments of your life in a smart and unique way? To click high-quality images you not just only need a good camera but must also be aware of the various techniques to get the best out of it. If you are new to the field of photography then you may not be aware of the best possible way to get shallow depth of field in the images that you have captured using your DSLR camera.

To become acquainted with the above term, you first need to gain some knowledge about the depth of field photography which has become one of the most important tools to capture distinct images in a wonderful way.

Let's discuss some of the important points which will not just only make you aware of the above terms but also enable you to learn about the techniques to focus the prime object and give a blurred look to the area behind or in front of the main object with the help of your camera.

Understanding Depth of Field

What does the term “Depth of Field” refer to?

Understanding how the depth of field works is one of the most important tools to make the image tack sharp, making the shot count. To know what to keep in and out of focus perfectly to get the desired shot is an art, which can be developed by understanding the concept of depth of field.

If you are passionate towards photography then you must be aware of the fact that the lens of your camera can only focus on a specific point but besides this, there are also some areas other than the main object which is being focused by your camera. This specific area is otherwise referred to as the depth of field photography.

The depth of field is further divided into shallow depth of field and deep depth of field.

depth of field

What is Aperture or F-Stop

Well, you must be thinking, how does aperture control depth of field?

Aperture refers to the opening inside the lens of your camera which controls the amount of light that strikes the image sensor in order to get a glimpse of the object that needs to be captured.

Aperture is measured in terms of F-Stop and hence, larger the opening more the amount of light enters the lens and vice versa.

Hence, to understand the relationship between Aperture and depth of field it will be wise for you to remember that:

  • Larger the Aperture= Smaller the F-number (F/1.4) = Less the amount of light needed= Shallow (small) depth of field
  • Smaller the Aperture= Larger the F-number (F/8) = More the amount of light needed= Deep (large) depth of field
aperture settings
Make way for light

Factors that Affect Depth of Field

To understand the depth of field better,  go through the below factors on which it depends on.

Focal Length

How does the focal length of a lens control depth of field?

According to the photography guide, the focal length is otherwise referred to the capability of the camera lens to “zoom in” or magnify the specific object which has been placed at a distance from the camera.

If the lens of your camera is more powerful and has the higher magnifying capability then it will certainly result in the shallow depth of field and on the other hand, a lower magnifying capability of the lens will lead to a larger depth of field. 

focal length for shallow DOF
Zoom in for flawless click

Distance

Distance is also a major factor that affects the depth of knowledge. Greater the distance between the focused object and your camera, greater will be the DOF or depth of field and on the other hand, lesser the distance between subject and camera, shallow the depth of field.  

According to the above information, we can summarize DOF in the following way.

To gain Smaller or Shallow DOF

  • Choose smaller F/number
  • Decrease the distance between subject and camera
  • Widen the focal length

To gain Larger or Deeper DOF

  • Choose larger F/number
  • Increase the distance between subject and camera
  • Decrease the focal length

Increasing/Decreasing the Depth of Field

An increased depth of field is usually necessary for landscape photography where it is important to get as much scene in focus as possible. Using a wide-angle lens with a small aperture will help increase the depth of field.

Decreasing the depth of field is mainly used for portrait mode and wildlife photography as it makes the object stand out. Especially in wildlife photography, most of the situations are low light and choosing a larger aperture will provide more light, making the image better.

depth of field

In short, for a nice and blurry background with a shallow depth of field, a large aperture needs to be chosen, whereas, for a sharp and deep depth background, a small aperture is the best. The longer the focal length, the shallower will be the depth of field.

In other words, understanding the depth of field can improve images!

To get a shallow depth of field, we will have to widen the aperture of the camera, move closer to the subject, and lengthen the focal length.

How To Get Shallow Depth Of Field: 9 Factors to Know About

Do you wish to give more attention or only just focus on a specific object with the help of your DSLR camera and give the rest of the area a blurred look?

Then it will certainly be wise for you to become aware of the shallow depth of field photography and thereby get the opportunity to capture precious moments like an experienced field photographer. Shallow depth of field is ideal for portrait photography, sports photography, wildlife photography, macro photography where you want to bring complete attention only to the subject.

Below are discussed some of the major points that you must consider in order to gain a shallow depth of field in the images which you have captured with your camera.

1. Check the focal length of the lens of your camera

If you wish to become a professional field photographer capturing wow images then it will certainly be wise for you to consider the focal length of the camera lens in order to achieve shallow depth of field photography in your images.

To make the point more clear ensure to click a specific object with 250mm lens at F/2 and again with a lens of 50mm at F/2 and then try to analyze the difference between the two captured images in a proper way.

The image captured with the help of 250mm lens at F/2 will certainly be sharper than the one which has been captured with 50mm lens at F/2.

Therefore, if you wish to achieve the best small depth of field or give a distinct blurred look to the background area of the prime subject then ensure to choose camera lens with higher focal length and even maximum aperture in order to click sharp images in a faster way.

Check the Perfect Guide on The Best Focal Length in Wildlife Photography

right lens for shallow dof
Perfect lens for perfect click

2. Ensure to become acquainted with your camera settings

By just capturing images with your DSLR camera will certainly not help you to get the best results and hence, ensure to gain detail knowledge about the camera settings in order to become a wow field photographer.

To achieve the best shallow depth of field in your images manually, ensure to set the camera in “A” or aperture priority mode and even choose the lowest F/number. With the help of this manual setting, you will not just only be avail to achieve wider aperture but also give a sharper look to the focused object by blurring the background in a more effective way.

Livingit Tip
When shooting outdoors in natural sunlight, use wider aperture mode. This way your photos will look flawless. 

camera setting for shallow depth of field
Choose the right setting for wow element (source)

3. Placement or Positioning of the focused subject

If you wish to become a professional field photographer guide then it will certainly be wise to gather detail information about the positioning or placement of the focused subject in front of your camera. To create the best shallow depth of field, it is highly recommended to place the subject far away from the background.

In other words, more the distance between the focused subject and its background greater will be the shallow DOF that you will be able to gain in your captured image.

To get the best results, a talented and wow field photographer recommends placing the subject to at least 100 meters away from the specific background in order to focus it in a distinct way and give a more blurred look to the background. 

Shallow Depth of Field Ideas
Placing the subject is important (source)

4. Use the Portrait mode to create shallow DOF

Are you new to using your DSLR camera and hence, finding it difficult to focus a specific subject and make the background blurry?

Then it will be a smart decision to select the “Portrait mode”, a wonderful shooting mode which is available in the DSLR cameras. The Portrait mode of the camera uses a unique “Depth effect tool” using which it will be easier for you to create a small depth of field or shallow depth of field.

This special tool uses a larger aperture to make sure that you are able to focus on the main subject properly and even give a blurred look to the background. 

portrait mode
Pop the subject out from the surroundings

5. Switch to Aperture Priority mode to capture smart images

Even though the Aperture Priority mode has been discussed above but still we are going to summarize it again in order to enable you to become aware of its importance in creating a shallow depth of field.

With the help of this unique mode in your camera, choose a specific aperture size of your choice and thereby get the opportunity to click sharp images with small depth of field and blurry backgrounds. Make sure to choose different aperture size to analyze the one which will fulfill your purpose and needs.

In order to give a unique look to a digital photo, you must also try to consider about the objects that can be focused at the same time with a wider aperture. 

6. Type of Zoom lens used

The type of lens which you are using with your DSLR camera also plays a great role in creating the best shallow depth of field.

Since most of the zoom lens which comes with a DSLR camera offers different larger apertures at various level of focal length, it can sometimes be very tricky to choose the one which will help you to achieve the best results.

For an example, if the kit offers 18 to 55 mm lens with the highest aperture of F/3.5 at 18mm and F/5.6 at 55mm then it can certainly be difficult for you to choose the one to get best results. Even though most of the people will go for the F/3.5 at 18mm, but we recommend the users to choose the maximum aperture of F/5.6 at 55mm in order to focus the main subject in an easier way and even get the opportunity to place the background at a very far distance so as to give it a blurred look in a smart way.

Check out the Lenses for a Beginner's Photography Kit

shallow depth of field ideas
Blur the background 

7. Go for the new lens to achieve best results

If you are finding it difficult to give a deep focus shot of the main subject with the help of the available lens kit then it will certainly be wise for you to go for a new lens. Most of the popular brands available in the market offer different types of lens which offer different maximum apertures to the users and hence it will be a smart decision to choose the one which fulfills your ultimate goal and even budget.

If you have a high budget then ensure to go for the zoom lens with a higher aperture as it will help you to create the shallow depth of field in a faster and easier way.

Besides this, it will also be wise to compare the features of different brands of lens available in the market and thereby get the opportunity to choose the one which will not just only suit your purpose but also budget.

Check out the Complete Guide to Choose the Best DSLR Lenses

8. Camera Sensor Comparison: Size of the Sensor

The size of the sensor also determines the proper utilization of the depth of field. The smaller the sensor, the smaller the depth of field, and the larger the sensor, the larger the depth of field. This is one of the reasons why one cannot get proper shallow depth from a point-and-shoot camera.

The 35mm DSLR is considered to be standard when it comes to shallow depth of field photography, as it has a larger sensor.

To understand better, check 35mm vs. 50mm: The Battle of the Lenses

9. Bokeh

Bokeh is a Japanese word, meaning blur. This effect is produced by the areas that are out-of-focus in an image that is beyond the depth of field.

It refers to the pleasing circle shapes caused by the shape of the lens aperture. It is created when shooting with your aperture wide open, such as f/2.8. Bokeh can also be created with smaller apertures and a distant background.

Check out How to Create the Mesmerizing Bokeh Effect

Using DOF in Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Most of the beginner photography enthusiast ask, "What if I just have a point and shoot camera, or don’t know how to change those settings?"

Well, then, the point-and-shoot cameras also have settings for enhancing images by changing the depth of field.

The symbol with a human head in the Scene menu is for portrait mode, allowing to take images with a shallow depth of field. In a similar way, the symbol of the mountain is for the landscape mode, which allows shooting images with a deep depth of field.

If you own a DSLR and don’t know how to change settings, select the aperture priority mode to determine the depth of field and the camera will set the aperture speed automatically.

Know all about Why F-stop in DSLR Photography is Getting Popular

distance for shallow DOF
Where is your focus?

Depth of Field in Macro Photography

Most macro images are produced in a low-light atmosphere with a longer focal length that results in a shallow depth of field.

We will have to adjust the lens to the smallest aperture that light will allow and may also have to increase the ISO to expose the image properly and maximize the depth of field. It is convenient to take macro shots using tripods, for the focus is very narrow, and because of this, the slightest movement can make the macro subject move out of the depth of field.

Getting shallow depth of field in the images may sometimes be tricky for few people but if you are aware of the settings of your camera and even have some knowledge to choose the right lens with maximum aperture then it will be easier for you to create a small depth of field in the captured images.

Besides this, make sure to become acquainted with the depth of field in order to become aware of the best possible way to focus on the main subject and even make the background blurry.

If you find the above information and tips valuable then feel free to comment on whether these have helped you to get the best out of your high-end DSLR camera and besides this, you can also share various other tips which can be helpful for the passionate photographers.

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