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  • Writer's pictureIan Miller

Using depth of field in photography

Updated: Feb 13

Depth of field (DoF) is one of the most important concepts in photography. It refers to the range of distance in a scene that appears acceptably sharp and in focus. The depth of field can vary depending on several factors, such as aperture, focal length, distance to the subject, and sensor size. By understanding how these factors affect the depth of field, you can control how much of your image is sharp and how much is blurred.


The aperture is the opening in your lens that lets light pass through to the sensor. It is measured in f-stops, such as f/2.8, f/4, f/8, etc. The smaller the f-number, the larger the aperture, and vice versa. Aperture affects the depth of field by changing the size of the area where light rays converge to form a sharp image. A large aperture (small f-number) creates a shallow depth of field, meaning only a small portion of your image is in focus. A small aperture (large f-number) creates a large depth of field, meaning more of your image is in focus.


Focal length is the distance between your lens and the sensor when your lens is focused at infinity. It is measured in millimetres, such as 24mm, 50mm, 200mm, etc. Focal length affects the depth of field by changing the angle of view and magnification of your image. A short focal length (wide-angle lens) has a wide angle of view and low magnification, which creates a large depth of field. A long focal length (telephoto lens) has a narrow-angle of view and high magnification, which creates a shallow depth of field.

Distance to the subject is the distance between your camera and the point where you focus your lens. It affects the depth of field by changing the relative size and position of your subject and background. The closer you are to your subject, the shallower the depth of field. The farther you are from your subject, the larger the depth of field.


Sensor size is the physical size of your camera's sensor. It affects the depth of field by changing the crop factor and the effective focal length of your lens. A large sensor (full-frame or 35mm) has a low crop factor and retains the original focal length of your lens, which creates a shallow depth of field. A small sensor (crop-sensor or APS-C) has a high crop factor and increases the effective focal length of your lens, which creates a large depth of field.

To summarize, if you want to create a shallow depth of field, you should use a large aperture, a long focal length, a close distance to your subject, and a large sensor. If you want to create a large depth of field, you should use a small aperture, a short focal length, a far distance to your subject, and a small sensor.


Depth of field is a powerful tool for creative photography. It can help you isolate your subject from the background, create a sense of depth and dimension, or show more details and context in your scene. By mastering how to control it, you can take your photography to the next level.

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