Depth of Field – For Beginners.
What is Depth of Field (also known as DOF) and how can I control it? It may seem complicated but really it isn’t. The pictures below will show you step by step how to control your Depth of Field.
The Depth of Field or DOF is the zone of sharpness in your photo. Or, to put it another way, what’s in focus in the picture. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to Depth of field but it will help you to better understand it and have more control over your photos. Thus making them better.
Below are two images, pretty boring ones you’ll agree! But they really show the difference in Depth Of Field;
As the name suggests this is the point you focus on in the picture. Every image here has the same focal point.
So with our focal point the same, we now vary the aperture to give more depth of field. The aperture is the hole in the camera that lets the light in. F3.5 is a big hole so lets in more light than F22. The two photos below were taken from the same position about 5 seconds apart.
The only difference is the aperture.
The one on the left is Aperture F3.5 while the one on the right is Aperture F22. The rule is, the larger the number, the more DOF. Small number F3.5 = Small Depth of Field. Large number F22 = Large Depth of Field.
Linked together, the Depth of Field and the focal point are the keys to understanding DOF. As a rough guide, The Depth of Field area is 1/3 before your focal point and 2/3 after your focal point.
When you change the Aperture, you also change the shutter speed. The aperture, as mentioned before, is the hole in the camera that lets the light in. This means that a bigger hole lets more light in and allows the camera to use a faster shutter speed because it has more light.
Consequently, the camera has a faster shutter speed at F3.5 than it does at F22. Below are the two images from before with the Exposure, or shutter speed information on them.
As you can see, you would be able to hold your camera still at F3.5 but you would not be able to hold it still enough at F22 as the shutter speed is now 1/8th of a second. Keeping the picture sharp at slow shutter speeds can be tricky, either use a tripod, convenient rock or fence post to rest the camera on to stop camera shake.
Sometimes a small DOF or Large DOF is useful and now you know how to do both!
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Depth of Field
For more reading on DOF try Wikipedia