If you are interested in photography then must have heard the term shallow depth of field somewhere for sure. This is because it is one of the fundamental concepts that explain the use of certain apertures.
That is why in this article, I will give you a thorough insight on how to use it and make the most out of shallow depth field photography. Trust me, if you learn how to control depth once, then you will be able to control your results in a much better way!
So let us begin by defining what depth of field really is and then we will move on to the shallow depth of field.
What is the depth of field?
The depth of field is very important in photography as it differentiates between images with the entire scene in focus and those images that singling out a subject.
In simple words, it’s the difference between an out of focus image and macro photography. Mostly depth of field is defined by your aperture setting.
The wider the aperture the shallower the depth and the narrower the aperture the deeper the depth. But remember it’s not the only aperture that affects depth of field as the sensor size also affects it. If you have a bigger camera sensor, the depth of field will be deeper and the vice versa is also true.
What is the shallow depth of field?
Shallower depth of field is depth you get when you use a wide aperture. It is confusing, as the word shallow makes you think of the smallest end of the scale.
But that’s not the case as what you want is the smallest f/stop possible which means the widest aperture. This means that smaller f-stops number lead to shallow depth of field as they represent wider apertures, for example, f/1.4 is 2 stops wider than f/2.8.
The range of aperture depends upon your lens but mostly lenses can have an aperture as wide as f/1.2 while the narrowest aperture they provide is f/22, which leads to a deeper depth of field.
Why choose a shallow depth of field?
Shooting with shallow depth of field is the best way to take soft and naturally lit photos with DSLR. This is because the aperture is wide open and allows the maximum amount of light to pass through to create exposure.
It is also used to draw the viewer’s attention to a certain aspect of the subject as the rest of the image is usually out of focus. It also leads to the bokeh of the image looking much better which means that the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas in the image gives an effect of a ‘nice’ background blur.
Remember that a slight change in aperture can alter shallow depth of field because the f-numbers even though they seem close together such as 1.4 and 2.8, actually are way different as 1.4 allows 4 times more light to pass through than 2.8.
Please see Justin’s video from Run N Gun YouTube channel, if you rather prefer video than reading:
20 of the greatest shallow depth field photography tips for you:
1. Widening the Bokeh
Widen the aperture, if you want a wider bokeh. So use a shallower depth of field as anything other than it will cause the bokeh to be turn out pentagonal or octagonal.
2. Softening the Backgrounds
Use a shallow depth of field to produce soft backgrounds and capture great landscape photographs with a sharp subject and a soft background.
3. The right amount of Light
Use a shallow depth of field especially when shooting indoors, as the amount of light available is less there. So with wide apertures, you can bounce the flash off the wall and create just the right amount of opening for a good exposure.
4. Lack of Focus
When you want lack of focus to add some creativity then widen your aperture as it leads to a depth of field becoming extremely shallow and draws attention.
5. Singling Out
Shallow Depth of Field is great for drawing the viewer in as it captures a certain part of the body sharply and leaves the rest blurred to grab attention and also for increased image quality.
6. Selective Focus
If you have multiple subjects in a scene but want to only focus on one person, shallow depth of field comes in handy here as wide aperture leads to selective focus. So it is a great tool to highlight your main subject.
7. Creating Eerie Mood
If you want to give your images an eerie look then shoot with the aperture wide open even when the subject isn’t far away. Thus, the blurred background with close up subject gives the photos an eerie feel
8. Following the Lines
If you want to emphasize the depth of field in an image, then use a shallow depth of field with the subject moving away from you.
9. Forgetting Your Background
If you want to spark some interest in your images then forget the background by using a shallow depth of field and play with your subject’s features to make them stand out.
10. Know where to carefully Focus
You have to be very careful where you focus as it can completely change the perspective. For example, focusing on the light on the cheek of the subject can change the overall focus rather than focusing on her nose and can lead to much better results when using a shallow depth of field.
11. Using Natural Light
Natural light is best when using a shallow depth of field as wide aperture complements it.
12. Featured Placement
When experimenting with the placement of key features in your image, you can be more adventurous if using a shallow depth of field as the viewer’s attention will be grabbed by whatever you focus on.
13. Lens Flare
If shooting into the sun, shallow depth of field can be of great help as wide aperture makes the lens flare shape the same way as itself.
14. Divide and then Conquer
Shallow depth of field is perfect when you want the viewer to only look at a single aspect of the image. It makes it easier to conquer because it divides the viewer’s attention.
15. Focusing on the Eyes
When using a shallow depth of field, focus on the eyes of the subject if you want the rest of the face in focus as well. This even works at f/1.4.
16. Using the Shutter Speed
With a shallow depth of field, you can turn up your shutter speed as wide aperture lets you capture loads of light and allow you to take photos of moving subjects even when you are walking.
17. Creative Motion Blur
While capturing photos with movement and shallow depth of field, just focus on the stillest part of the subject to create an artistic motion blur.
18. Soft Foreground
If you want to shoot through objects in the foreground then shallow depth is perfect as wide apertures effectively turn them to a soft blur.
19. Multiple Points of Interest
When shooting with shallow depth of field, consider having multiple points of interest in the scene.
20. Lots of Light
To gain perfect shallow depth of field, make use of abundant light which will give you the most beautiful photos in this genre that requires all the light available.
I hope this article is helpful for you and you’ll apply the things you have learned to capture some amazing photos!