Photography 101- Depth of Field

When you're taking pictures, one important element is to give your viewer a very clear sense of where you want them to look as they move through the photograph. And one of the techniques to do just that is called selective focus, or depth of field.

When you hear someone talk about depth of field, all that really means is the area of the image that's in focus. Take a look at the picture of the bride below. Notice how her shoulder closest to the camera is out of focus, then her head is in focus, and her shoulder furthest from the camera is out of focus? Well, this picture has a very shallow depth of field. It has a very narrow range where the subject in the picture is in focus.

The effect of using a very shallow depth of field is that it guides the viewer right to the point of the picture that you want them to view first. It helps tell the viewer that this part of the image is the important stuff. It's also a way to get rid of, or minimize a cluttered background that's not helpful, or contributing to the story of the overall image.

To create a shallow depth of field, you'll want to select an aperture setting (also called the f-stop) with the lowest number your camera will allow. Instead of keeping your camera on fully automatic, turn it to the setting where you select the aperture, and your camera will take care of the shutter speed. If you aren't sure how to do this, refer to your manual. On a lot of cameras, this setting is called Aperture Priority. 

Once you're in Aperture Priority, select the lowest number you can. That number is going to depend on the lens you have. Some of the aperture settings you see will look like this: 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8, 11, 16. Lower numbers will create a shallow depth of field, while higher numbers will create a wide depth of field.

This is post 4 in a series by Justin Hackworth. If you'd like to learn more take Justin's class coming up next month! 


Eden Hensley

Marketing creative, community engagement specialist, technophile, photographer, food and wine enthusiast, and the founder and editor-in-chief of The Road to The Good Life, a lifestyle blog about appreciating and enhancing your life by being grateful for the "haves" instead of lingering on the "wants." There you will find personal stories about my life and family weaved in with real-life, achievable entertaining tips, recipes for hearty home cooked meals, and DIY projects for capturing and sharing memories. I believe the best place to swap stories is over a shared meal, preferably a Thai-meal served family style, and teach an online introduction class to Thai Flavors and host the Family Dinners at The Station supper club in San Francisco.