How well do you understand Depth of Field?

As a beginning photographer on your way to shoots you may have nervous impulses sometimes even as a professional photographer you might have this same feeling and this is primarily due to when shooting a subject, it is your responsibility to have fun and also get amazing shots whether it’s a wedding, portrait session, fashion editorial or a headshot.

Photocredits: Photographed by KND Media

A knowledge you should have at the tip of your fingers to ensure you get these amazing shots is using the concept of Depth of Field, I commonly refer to it as DOF (Depth of Field). It probably sounds so complicated or difficult but it’s actually as simple as closing your eyes to take a nap. Let me give a basic illustration on what DOF really is, If you see a picture and notice that the subject is in focus and the background is blurry, we can safely say the picture has a Shallow DOF and a Landscape Picture where you notice that all the details are in focus we can call this a Deep DOF.

" Shallow Depth of Field "

"Deep Depth of Field"

This simply shows that Depth of Field refers to the amount of details in picture or the contrast between what is in focus and what is out of focus

How Do I Get a Depth of Field?

Achieving the perfect DOF has several factors to it but we would deal on the basics and try not to get everything messy.

  1. Equipment

  2. Aperture setting

  3. Length of the lens

  4. Physical distance from the lens


To achieve a DOF first and foremost you need a proper Camera preferably a DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex Camera) and secondly a Portrait Lens with a relatively low F-stop. PS: A kit lens is not recommended.

Aperture Settings

This is a very important aspect and I will be assuming you have a basic knowledge on how Aperture work i.e The lower the F stop the wider the Opening of the Lens Aperture and Vice versa. To achieve a Swallow DOF you have to set your Aperture to a low F-Stop depending on where you intend to focus area on your subject to be. Also to achieve a Deep DOF your F Stop can go as high as F22 for a Landscape picture with details on elements in the background.

Length of the lens

This factor is quite simple, the longer the length of your lens, the shallower your depth of field will be.

Physical Distance from the lens

The closer a subject is to the lens, the shallower the DOF will be. A simple illustration of this is imagine you have a subject 16 meters away from your lens in focus. (Recall that once you focus on a subject both the background i.e stuff at the back and the foreground i.e stuff at front all become out of focus). The objects 8 metres behind the subject would be less blurry than the object 8 metres in foreground i.e the object is the foreground will be extremely blurry compared to those at the background. This is because the lens is not linear and the closer you are to the lens the shallower the DOF.

Ilustration of Physical Distance from lens

These four factors I have explained above are very essential and go hand in hand. It is essential that you read through as many times as possible till you fully understand them and then you move unto the next step. Practicing


All you have read and understood so far will only make sense if you pick up your DSLR Camera a lens and just try them out. You do not need to set up lights and backgrounds, all you need it the will to be better and go ahead with your Camera and lens. Let me give you some test scenarios and guides to make the process a whole lot easier for you. Put your Camera on Aperture priority mode and set your aperture as wide as f2.8 and take a picture of a mug cup on a table taking note of the physical distance from the lens, after pressing the shutter reduce the aperture to f5.6 then f9, continue this process and when you have gotten as far as f22. Send these images to your laptop and observe the contrast between what is in focus and what is out of focus at the different camera settings.

Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.

If you aim to create a sort of drama and draw the attention of the viewer to your subject, then the use of Depth of Field will be a great addition to the overall composition of your image.

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