One of the most used creative tools available to photographers is to control the depth of field in our images. But what exactly do we mean by depth of field, or DOF as it’s often abbreviated to?
DOF refers to the amount of an image that is in focus, in relation to the distance away from the camera. So typically, landscape type photography will often have a much deeper depth of field than say a shot of a flower head – why? To help draw the viewers eye to the subject that the photographer was capturing.
Probably better to show this by example – the first shot, a landscape, has sharp focus in the foreground, the middle ground and the back ground – whereas in the second shot of a wild flower, most of the flower itself is in focus, but the background is out of focus, making the viewer concentrate on the subject matter, i.e. the flower. This technique is often used in wildlife, portraiture and other genres of photography.
But how do you control what is and what isn’t in focus?
DOF is controlled by a number of factors. The main control that most photographers concentrate on though is aperture. Aperture or f-stop is the size of the “hole” through which light passes through the lens onto the film or sensor in the camera. Basically, the bigger that hole, the shallower the depth of field, the smaller that hole, the greater the depth of field. The lens in use will determine what the maximum (largest) and minimum (smallest) apertures are available, but there are other factors to consider.
Firstly, distance – the closer you get to the subject, the shallower the depth of field – the further away, the greater. Secondly, the focal length of the lens – the shorter the focal length the greater the depth of field, the longer the focal length, the shallower the depth of field becomes.
Bringing these three factors together will provide you with creative control over the depth of field of your images – aperture, distance and focal length – why not try it out and see how creative you can be.
Our Getting Started course covers aperture as a key element of exposure but also in the creative use of aperture to control depth of field.