Tips & Tutorials

Understanding Depth of Field [Photography Tutorial]

Ever wondered how to make a certain part of a photograph appear in focus, with the rest being blurred? The answer to that is depth of field, and it’s a term we use to determine how much in front and behind your subject is in actual focus. In some way, it’s the most important part of a photograph as it gives the viewer an idea of what you wanted to show/hide.

Controlling the depth of field is a piece of cake, and there are lots of way how you can “manipulate” with it, regardless of your skills.

  • Shallow depth of field means not a lot is in focus; great for isolating your subject
  • Big depth of field area is for whenever you want as much in focus as possible

Here are 4 most effective ways to change your depth of field, and you can literally start after reading this article, as all you need is a camera with a lens!

small white throated kingfisher on branch
Photo by Rajukhan Pathan on

Aperture Size

I’m assuming you have read my aperture tutorial, so I won’t go too much into detail here.

  • The smaller the aperture opening, the bigger your depth of field area is (a lot appears in focus)
  • The bigger your aperture opening, the shallower your depth of field is (like the eagle below)

It’s as easy as it’s written above! Want to blur the background? Just choose the largest aperture your lens offers and it will instantly appear out of focus.


f/4 – 400mm

f/4 is not such a big aperture, but it’s often enough to make your subject appear totally isolated, especially if the objects in the background are far away.


f/10 – 24mm

Whenever you want your photograph to have everything sharp and in focus, you’d normally select a small aperture (great for landscape, nature, group shots etc.). You don’t always have to select the smallest value though, a lot of times it won’t look much different after passing f/16.

Focal Length

The images above have two major differences, and it’s the focal length that was used to take each.

  • Telephoto lenses will always make depth of field appear shallower
  • Wide angle and all around lenses will make everything appear in focus

A lot of people shoot wildlife at f/8, yet still get beautiful background blur, and a lot of wide angle shots are taken at f/4, but the super wide focal length takes care of the depth of field regardless of your aperture.

Sensor & Subject Distance

Phones and smaller cameras are one of the worst things for getting that shallow depth of field look, and it’s due to the fact that their sensors are up to 30x smaller than that of a DSLR camera (even entry level ones).

  • The bigger the sensor, the shallower DoF (Depth of Field) look you can get

Another great way to make the background appear blurred is to increase the distance between your and your subject, as well as the distance between your subject and the background. The closer the three of you are, the sharper everything will look.

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