Understanding what depth of field is and how to control it will allow you to create better photographs that highlight exactly what you want the viewer to see. Have you ever taken a picture of an object that is clear in the front then gets blurry toward the back? Why does that happen?
Blurry In Focus Blurry
What is Depth of Field?
Depth of Field is the distance between the nearest and farthest points in a scene that appear acceptably sharp and in focus. A camera will focus on a certain point. The further away from that point, in either direction, the blurrier the image becomes.
How To Control Depth of Field?
Depth of Field is primarily controlled by camera aperture or f-stop with the depth of field being inversely related to aperture size.
- A wider aperture which corresponds to a smaller f-stop number (f-2.8 – 5.6) yields a shallow depth of field. In other words, a selective focus point with more of the photo being out of focus.
- A smaller aperture which corresponds to a larger f-stop number (f-13–22) yields a greater or longer depth of field. In this case, most of the photo will be in focus.
How to Put Depth of Field to Work?
Depth of field can be used to create interesting effects. You may have different reasons for choosing a certain depth of field, including artistic effect, highlighting a specific area or to achieve a crisp clear focus throughout.
In order to create a photograph with a visible depth of field you will need to consider the following factors:
- Object Length / Depth: The thicker or longer the object, the more you will need to manage depth of field.
- Available Light: The more light available, the higher the f-stop that can be used to increase depth of field
- Shooting Distance: With the same aperture, a deeper depth of field can be obtained by increasing the distance between the camera and object being photographed
- Lens Type: Different lenses have different depth of field capabilities. Macro lenses have shorter depth of field. A 100mm macro with have a shorter depth of field than a 50mm macro.
- Use a Tripod: As aperture is increased for a greater depth of field, less light enters the camera. To compensate for this and maintain correct exposure, a slower shutter speed or higher ISO is required. Note that using a higher ISO will result in increased image noise, so it is recommended to use a slower shutter speed and a stable tripod.
It is never recommended to push a lens to the limit in order to get maximum depth of field. For example, if f-32 is the smallest aperture possible, shooting at f-32 will yield below average results. Regarding image quality, each lens has an optimal aperture or f-stop number determined by the manufacturer. It’s typically between f-8 – f-11. Learn more about aperture, light diffusion and image clarity. Sometimes for best results, a different lens or different shooting method may be necessary.
Focus stacking is an alternative shooting method in which multiple pictures are taken over a range of focus points then re-combined to create one picture that has no depth of field limitations. Jewelry and macro photographers commonly use focus stacking to obtain the sharp results they desire.
There is no ‘correct’ depth of field, there is only mastering depth of field and using it to create desired effects.
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