What is shallow depth of field photography? And how are you able to create it for lovely, pro-level effects?
In this article, I’ll share all you need to know about shallow depth of field , including:
- What shallow depth associated with field actually is
- Why shallow depth of field is useful in picture taking
- Five simple ways to create that gorgeous shallow depth of industry effect
In fact , here’s my assure: By the time you leave, you’ll be a shallow DOF professional.
Good good? Let’s dive perfect in, starting with a simple definition:
What is a shallow depth of field inside photography?
A shallow depth of field refers to an effect where very little of the picture is in focus .
For instance, an image might include an in-focus subject, but have a blurred-out background. This is common in family portrait photography (and if you look over this article, you’ll notice that our shallow depth of field examples are all portraits with this very reason! ).
A shallow depth of field contrasts having a deep level of field , in which the entire shot, from foreground to background, remains inside focus. Deep depth of field effects are common in landscape photography, where detail is a key compositional component.
Why is the shallow depth of industry effect important?
Plenty of photographers love low depth of field results – for two big reasons:
- The shallow depth of industry separates the subject from the history, helping the subject stand out.
- A shallow depth of field generally blurs the background, which looks actually gorgeous (when done correct, that is! ).
Often , a low depth of field is really a stylistic choice, one that particular photographers tend to prefer along with other photographers like to avoid.
Here’s a listing of genres that gravitate towards shallow DOF effects:
- Portrait pictures
- Wildlife digital photography
- Street digital photography (sometimes)
- Style photography
- Item photography (sometimes)
Of course , this list isn’t exhaustive, and irrespective, don’t feel hemmed in. If you prefer shallow depth of field but you take landscapes, that’s okay – do what you like!
How to get a shallow level of field effect: five techniques
Right now let’s take a look at how you can create shallow depth of field effects in your photos:
1 . Boost the subject-background distance
It’s one of the easiest ways to achieve a shallow depth of field effect:
Position your subject since far away from any history objects as possible.
If your subject is usually standing right in front of the wall, it’ll be in focus no matter what you do. But if they are standing 100 meters before that same wall, it’s going to be a lot a lot more blurry. Think of it as giving your background more room in order to blur.
Fast note: Technically, increasing the distance between the subject and the history doesn’t make the depth of field more shallow. The particular depth of field remains the same regardless (it depends upon other factors that I discuss below).
Yet bringing your subject forwards increases the styling of a shallow depth of field and gives you a near-equivalent effect.
2 . Use your camera’s Portrait mode
These days, most beginner cameras include a little wheel on top with lots of little icons on it – the Mode dial.
And on certain beginner models, the Mode dial will feature Scene modes, such as for example Landscape, Night, Sports, and so forth
Generally, one of these brilliant modes is Portrait . And if you’re uncomfortable using more advanced modes (such as Aperture Priority or Manual mode), Portrait mode is a good way to decrease the depth of field; it sets a large aperture (discussed in the next section! ), which will make the depth of field smaller.
Now, Portrait mode doesn’t offer any control over your depth of field effect, so I only recommend you employ it if you feel completely lost or have no intention of learning basic camera settings.
And if you do want to gain more control, check out the next approach to creating shallow depth of field:
3. Widen your lens’s aperture
Every lens includes an aperture – essentially a hole – that widens or narrows depending on your camera’s aperture setting.
And the wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field.
Portrait mode will automatically widen your aperture. But if you want a greater level of get a grip on, I’d recommend using either
If you’ve never set the aperture before, know that small numbers, such as f/1. 8 and f/2. 8, match a wide aperture (and hence a shallow depth of field). Large numbers, such as f/16 and f/22, correspond to a narrow aperture (and a deep depth of field).
For ultra-shallow depth of field effects, stick to f/2. 8 and wider if possible, though your aperture capabilities will depend on your lens (because all lenses have an aperture maximum).
In fact , if you like the idea of adjusting the aperture to achieve the perfect depth of field effect, I highly recommend you put your camera on Aperture Priority mode, find a subject, and test out a handful of different apertures. Then review each photo carefully, paying attention to how the aperture setting affects the depth of field.
4. Use a long lens (and get close to your subject)
The closer you get to your subject, both optically – by using a long lens – and physically – by moving toward your subject – the shallower the depth of field and the better the background blur.
That’s why the very best shallow depth of field portraits tend to be taken on an 85mm lens or perhaps a 70-200mm lens, not a 50mm or 35mm lens. The longer focal length makes it easier to get close, which in turn decreases the depth of field. Make sense?
However , if you only own a 35mm lens, don’t worry; you can still create a shallow DOF. You merely need to get close to your subject. Yes, it might be a bit uncomfortable if you’re photographing people – you’ll be shooting from right in front of their face! – but the results will be worth it.
By the way, longer lenses have another advantage over shorter lenses:
They compress the back ground . The actual effect is difficult to explain, but it leads to a smoother background blur and the appearance of a shallow depth of field.
So if possible, shoot your images from up close – and use a long lens, too. (Don’t get crazy along with your focal length, though, especially if you’re photographing people; in the event that you go over 200mm or so, you’ll be forced to back up ridiculously far, which can become unmanageable, plus you’ll lose an even of photographer-subject intimacy. )
5. Get yourself a wide-aperture lens
Previously, I explained that a wide aperture leads to outstanding shallow depth of field effects. I also mentioned that some lenses feature a maximum aperture.
So if you’re intent on achieving a shallow depth of field, a lens with a wide aperture (known as a fast lens) is your friend.
Unfortunately, fast lenses tend to be expensive, but they can also be worth the investment. Plus, there are some fast primes – such as a 50mm f/1. 8 – that are optically impressive, effective at beautiful background blur, and so are also quite cheap.
(Fast lenses also let you shoot in low light, which is a major bonus. )
Incidentally, some lenses offer better background blur than the others. So before purchasing, I would recommend reading reviews of possible lenses (or at least viewing sample images). Good reviewers will discuss background blur (also known as bokeh ), and you may determine whether the lens is right for you.
Shallow depth of field: final words
Now that you’ve finished this article, you know all about shallow depth of field and how to create it.
So head out together with your camera. See if you can get some beautiful depth of field effects. Try out the methods I’ve suggested.
And also have fun!
Now over to you:
Which of these practices is your favorite? Do you have any tips that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!