Camera Talk: Depth of Field

Aperture settings on your camera allow you to be creative. Depth of Field (DOF) determines how much area in the photo comes into sharp focus when the photo is composed. A broad (wide) Depth of Field will put most of the picture in sharp focus while a narrow DOF will isolate the subject from the background.

Think before you shoot.
If you’d like to capture a scene where everything is in focus a higher number aperture setting is what’s required. Usually for a landscape or any scene where you decide everything is important in the composition, go with an aperture of f/9, f/11, f/16 or higher.

Depth-of-field-1-Mike-LynchThe Iris field photo was taken with my Panasonic set at f/11 because I wanted to display the entire patch of flowers. Had I wanted to isolate and focus on only one plant and blur the rest, I’d have used a setting such as f/2.8.

The photo of the bird in a field was captured much differently. The scenery wasn’t that attractive and I wanted the bird to stand out from the background. F/6.7 was the widest aperture available on the Sigma 50-500mm lens I had attached to my Pentax when I zoomed to its maximum length in order to capture the rascal. This blurred the background enough to make the bird stand out as the subject.

Depth-of-field-2-Mike-Lynch Some other factors to consider.
The distance you are from your subject has an impact on DOF. The farther you are away from the scene, the more depth of field you can create.
Focal length has an impact on the scene, as well. A wide angle lens gives you a greater Depth of Field than a zoom or telephoto lens. Zooming-in, as I did in the bird photo creates a narrower Depth of Field and increases distortion in the background.

Put yourself in charge of your camera.
Play around with aperture settings. Try a few shots at maximum, middle and narrowest aperture and at various distances from your target. You probably won’t notice the difference until you pull the photos up on your monitor. But, when you do, you’ll notice a dramatic difference. You can make yourself the Master and RULE OVER YOUR SUBJECTS. Until next time; Happy Shooting!

mikelynch200A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, Brave New Traveler, Go Nomad, Matador Abroad and Trips, The Nihon Sun, Travel Thru History, The Okinawan , Wend Magazine and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world. More of his work may be seen at: http://www.mikesryukyugallery.com/

Author: Michael Lynch

A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been featured in Matador Abroad and is published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, The Nihon Sun and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world. More of his work may be seen at: http://www.mikesryukyugallery.com/

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13 Comments

  1. Mike, when ever I encounter a camera problem, which us often, this is the place I come to for help. And I am sure, I am not the only one. Keep it up.

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  2. Inka,
    Glad to hear you’re following and hopefully practicing some of the techniques I ramble about here. It makes the writing much more enjoyable.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  3. Great information, I’ll be sure to experiment with the aperture more often when I’m out shooting. Thanks for the help an love your posts.

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  4. I have been meaning to jump into DOF but it feels so intimidating. To me, it still feels so complicated. When I read you post it makes sense. Out in the field is a different story… but I have not given up.

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  5. Everytime I get a new lens or camera, that’s one of my first tests to perform; right after figuring out all the controls and buttons and what they do.

    Especially on a brand new DSLR Lens, you want to experiment and see what it does at all aperture settings and if it’s a zoom, which aperture gives the most detail at a given focal length. It varies from lens to lens. I find my 18-250mm, fully extended gets the sharpest details at f/9, for example, where normally, I prefer shooting at f/11. It pays to know these things in advance but, when in doubt, in the field, I experiment and just read all the EXIF data, later.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  6. As always, heaps of good advice from you, Mike. I’ll put it to good use. Thanks!

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  7. Sophie and Matt, thank you. I’ll be peeking at your shots and trying to guess which aperture you’ve been using, from now on !

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  8. You rock Mike! As always, great info and beautiful pictures……

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  9. Audrey,
    Coming from one of my favorite photographers, your comment made my day. Thank you !

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  10. Mike – you are a camera crusader. I’m looking forward to the day when I too can rule over my subjects!

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  11. Nick,
    Thanks. Probably benevolent dictator would go over better in your neck of the woods!

    Cheers,
    Mike

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