Composition: Depth of Field

Let’s say you went to your friend’s birthday party the other day, and she got a new camera. Let’s also say you’re only used to phone and pocket camera photos. She starts taking photos with this new one, maybe an entry level dSLR, (on auto or not), and it starts spitting out really nice images. What is it specifically though? If you take a look, it might be the nicely blurred backgrounds, otherwise known as a shallow depth-of-field.

dSLRs even at the entry level easily make really blurred backgrounds. A lot of factors go into making this look, namely the size of the sensor, the aperture, and focal length.


Here are some examples with different DOFs:


Machu Picchu is an awe-inspiring place, I would definitely recommend taking a trip there one day if you’re looking to travel. In this shot, I set my aperture to f/10, and to get everything sharp with a deep depth-of-field, I focused a third of the way into the shot. This technique uses the idea of hyperfocal distance, where




Same idea with hyperfocal distance here.




Here Leo frontside bluntslides on a ledge on the UC Berkeley campus. Had I used a shorter focal length lens, or used a smaller aperture (f/ 6.3 or above), the background could have been distracting. Using a 50mm lens set to f/ 2, Leo was separated from the background, in his own shallow plane of focus. Precise framing helped a bit too.




Here John, the manager of Brickhouse in the Cayman Islands, gets ready to take food to a diner. He is distinctly separated from the busy bakground with an aprture of f/ 1.8, a very shallow depth-of-field.




Josh Ramos nosegrinds the tall ledges at Peace Wall, and using an aperture of f/ 4, with a 200mm focal length, leaves us with a shallow depth-of-field, that along with the off-camera flash and careful framing, separates him from the busy background.




This could have been better had I had a macro lens, but at f/1.8 and being so close-up to the model town, I was able to emphasize the conversation between the two women on the bench.




Hyperfocal distance + f/8 + wide lens= full sharpness of a big rock and bigger mountains.


Stay tuned for more tips!