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In the world of all things technical for the beginning photographer, the terms can have you easily reaching for the dictionary in frustration. And similar to white balance, aperture or bokeh — depth of field is one we hear often. 

It’s easy to get the terms confused, but becoming familiar and comfortable with them is a giant leap towards growing as a confident photographer ready to capture life through your lens.

That’s why in this blog, the Skylum team is working to deconstruct depth of field and make it easy and accessible for us all. 

So snag your coffee, take a seat, and read on!

What is Depth of Field?

A basic definition of depth of field is: the range of distance in your photography that appears acceptably sharp. In every image, there will be certain aspects of your photo in front and behind your subject and this changes among photos. Some photos have small zones of focus (shallow depth of field) whereas some have larger zones of focus (deep depth of field).

How Does it Improve Images?

Learning how to manage your depth of field will help to give you sharp images. It will aid in making certain parts of your image sharp, while keeping some out of focus. Perhaps you want to have a portrait shot with a blurred background — utilizing depth of field will help you do that. And, in essence, will become an incredible artistic tool that will lead you to stunning and creative images.

Although  depth  of field can seem like an easy concept to understand, practicing it can prove to be less straightforward. It has to do with aperture, distance and focus length — which we’ll discuss in further detail below. 

Aperture & Depth of Field

Aperture controls the amount of light that enters  yours  lens. To increase your depth of field, narrow your aperture (meaning, larger f-number). To decrease your depth of field, widen your aperture (meaning smaller f-number). 

  • Large aperture = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field
  • Small aperture = Larger f-number = Deeper (larger) depth of field

Distance & Depth of Field 

To increase your depth of field, move further from your subject. To decrease your depth of field, move closer to your subject. 

Focal Length & Depth of Field 

To increase your depth of field, shorten your focal length. To decrease your depth of field, lengthen your focal length.

When to Use Shallow Depth of Field vs. Deep Depth of Field 

Portraits: Use a shallow depth of field to separate the subject from the background.

Landscape: Use a deep depth of field in landscape images to make sure everything is in focus.

Wildlife: Use a shallow depth of field in wildlife photography to make the subject stand out from a blue sky or the green grass.

Sports: Use shallow depth of field in sports photography when you’re looking to separate the soccer player from the field or the basketball player from the court

Whether you’re taking portrait shots of your little one or landscape shots of the deep blue expansive sea — we hope this brief explanation of depth of field will help your images for years to come.