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How to adjust the depth of field in your photography

The post How to determine the depth of field in your photography first appeared at Digital Photography School. It was written by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

It is a common misconception that the f-stop you use will control the depth of field (DOF). The aperture setting certainly has an effect, but there are other factors that you should consider.

DOF is the area on a photo that is acceptably sharp. Lenses can only concentrate on one point. There is always a certain amount at the front and behind the focus point that is acceptably sharp.

How to determine your depth of field Thai dancer

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85 mm, Settings: f2, 1/250 sec, ISO 200 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

This varies depending on:

  • Aperture setting
  • Lens focal length
  • Camera distance to the subject
  • Sensor size.

The transition between what is sharp and what is not is gradual. It is important to learn how to manage the variables to create the desired look on your photos.

How sensor size affects DOF

The physical dimension of the sensor in your camera affects DOF. Unlike the other variables, it is not possible to change unless you use a different camera.

Small sensors, such as in telephones and compact cameras, give you the most DOF. This is one of the main reasons why people upgrade from a phone to a camera. Because they can't reach a shallow depth of field with their phone.

Telephone manufacturers try to simulate shallow DOF in different ways. But so far it seems to be little more than a bad gimmick. There is no replacement for size.

In short, cameras with smaller sensors take photos with more DOF at the same aperture and distance settings. If you want to make comparisons between DOF and sensors of different sizes, you must calculate the same effective focal length and aperture settings.

Larger sensors in DSLR and mirrorless cameras have made them popular with video producers. This is due to their capacity for shallow DOF. Traditional video cameras contain small sensors, which is why they generally have a deeper DOF.

How to control Thai depth of field models

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105 mm, Settings: f3.2, 1/400 sec, ISO 500 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How the distance between camera and subject affects DOF

The closer you are to the subject, the less DOF ​​you have at a certain aperture setting, with a lens on each camera. Go further back and your DOF will increase.

That is why it can be a challenge to make close-ups of sufficient DOF. If you are very close to your subject, this may mean that you do not have everything in focus. The use of macro lenses and close-up attachments reinforces this problem.

So if you still use only your kit lens, you have to go close to reach a shallow DOF. This is because these lenses do not have a very wide maximum aperture or a long focal length.

Remember that from the point where you are focused, 1/3 of the DOF will be closer to you and 2/3 of the DOF will be further away. If you know this, you can choose your focus point to control your DOF more precisely.

How to control your depth of field model and mask

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105 mm, Settings: f3, 1/100 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How lens focal length affects (apparent) DOF

The longer focal length you use, the shallower the DOF is displayed. But it doesn't really change.

If you take photos of the same subject with two different focal length lenses, the images taken with the wider lens appear to have a deeper DOF. The diaphragm must remain constant. When you crop the image created with the wider field of view so that the elements in the images are the same size, you will not see a real difference.

The idea that longer focal lengths produce a shallower DOF is a myth. Peter West Carey has already written an article about this for DPS based on the experiments of Matt Brandon. Matt ' s images prove it clearly. It can be difficult to understand. Especially if you are susceptible to the popular idea that the focal length influences DOF.

Thai elephants and model

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85 mm, Settings: f2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How aperture affects DOF

The diaphragm is an adjustable opening in a lens. The primary function is one of the buttons used to control the amount of light that enters the camera. A narrow aperture setting leaves in less light than a wider setting. The settings are measured in f registers.

Adjusting the aperture setting (changing the f-stop value) not only determines the amount of light that enters, but also the DOF. Changing the aperture is the most common way in which photographers determine DOF. The larger the aperture, the shallower the DOF. So the lower f-stop number that you choose (eg F / 1.4), the less of your image will be acceptably sharp. If you choose a smaller aperture, a higher f-stop number (for example, f / 22), more of your photo will be focused.

Lenses are made with different maximum openings. Typically, a kit lens has the largest aperture value of f / 3.5 when the lens is zoomed to the widest focal length. This value changes the more you zoom in. So the widest f-stop at the longest focal length may only be f / 6.3. For more information, read the article ' What the numbers on your lenses mean & # 39 ;.

Prime lenses usually have a wider maximum aperture. This is why they are often preferred by photographers who like to take photos with a shallower DOF. Popular 50 mm lenses have f / stop settings of f / 1.8, f / 1.4 or even wider. Read ' Primes versus zoom lenses: which lens to use and why? ' For more information about zoom lenses and prime lenses.

Elephant Cuddle

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85 mm, Settings: f2.8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

How can you see the DOF when compiling a photo?

Cameras with digital viewfinder or monitors will display the DOF as it will appear on the photo. Due to the small size, it can be difficult to see clearly unless you zoom in.

Cameras such as DSLR ' s with optical viewfinder do not allow you to see the effect of the DOF unless you use the DOF preview button. This is because the aperture is automatically adjusted as much as possible. It is adjusted to the f-stop that you selected while pressing the shutter button. If the f-stop could be changed during composing at narrow apertures, the image would appear dark in your viewfinder. You can see this when using the DOF preview.

How to arrange depth field Thai model with elephants

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 85 mm, Settings: f4, 1/640 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Manage your DOF well

Keeping all these variables balanced may seem complicated. But it is important to know how each of them affects DOF ​​so that you can manage it properly in your photos.

To help you learn how every aspect of DOF works, try taking some pictures and experimenting with them. Not for the sake of taking great photos, but to understand how changing each photo affects the appearance of your images. It is good to place your camera on a tripod or stable surface for this exercise.

Place a few objects in your list that are at different distances from your camera. Set your aperture to the widest – the lowest f-stop number (for example, f / 1.4). Stand as close as possible to the first object so that your lens can focus on it.

How to adjust the depth of field

Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 55 mm, Settings: f4, 1/30 sec, ISO 400 © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Take a photo of it and then focus on another object that is farther away from you and take another photo. Repeat this with each object farther away from you than you have in your frame.

Now repeat this process with a mid-range aperture setting and then the narrowest lens of your lens. Also try this with different focal lengths.

Then go back and take another series of photos in the same way. Repeat this process as you move back from your topic.

Compare the photos next to each other on your computer and note the differences in DOF between the photos. View the EXIF ​​data so that you can see what your aperture and zoom settings were.

By going through such an exercise, you will learn how to control the depth of field. As you can see the effects in your photos, it becomes less complicated.

Let me know in the comments below how you will proceed.

control of the depth of field in photography

The post How to determine the depth of field in your photography first appeared at Digital Photography School. It was written by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

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