DoF defined: controlling depth of field in photography

DoF vs subject distance: subject far from the camera

When you focus on a subject part of the scene in front and behind it is also sharp. This sharp zone is known as the depth of field – or DoF – and understanding how to control the size of your depth of field is one of the most important aspects of photography to get your head around.

How to control depth of field in outdoor portraits

It’s useful to have lots of depth of field in landscape photography, for instance, because the aim is usually to have the entire scene sharp from the rocks in the foreground to the horizon in the distance.

In portrait photography, however, we often want to restrict DoF a little so that the person is in sharp focus, but the background is blurred. This makes the sitter stand out while the background is a little less distracting.

On some occasions it’s nice to have very limited depth of field so that only a small section of the image is sharp and a lot of it is blurred. This is a technique that is often used in fine art photography or to draw attention to the subject and inject a little atmosphere.

Let’s take a look at the factors that affect depth of field and how you can control DoF in-camera.

PAGE 1: What is depth of field?
PAGE 2: Controlling depth of field via your aperture
PAGE 3: Controlling DoF by focal length
PAGE 4: Subject distance and depth of field
PAGE 5: Using all three factors to control DoF

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