What is Depth of Field?

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published November 8, 2022

depth of field

There’s a lot that goes into taking a great photograph. Composition, lighting, and timing all play a role. But one of the most important elements of a great photo is depth of field. In this blog post, we’ll break down what depth of field is and how you can use it to take better photographs.


In photography, depth of field refers to the portion of an image that appears in sharp focus. The rest of the image will appear blurry. The degree to which an image is blurred depends on the aperture setting on your camera. Aperture is measured in f-stops; the lower the f-stop, the wider the aperture, and the more blur you’ll get in your photo.

There are two types of Depth of Field:

They are a shallow depth of field and deep depth of field.

A shallow depth of field means that only a small portion of the image is in focus while the rest is blurred. This is often used for portraits because it helps to draw attention to the subject’s face.

Deep depth of field means that most or all of the image is in focus. This is often used for landscape or product shots because you want as much detail as possible to be visible in the final image.

How Do We Control Depth of Field as Photographers?

In general, there are three things that affect depth of field: aperture, focal length, and distance from the subject. Aperture has already been mentioned; it’s perhaps the most important factor when it comes to depth of field. Focal length refers to how zoomed in or out your camera lens is; a longer focal length will result in less depth of field while a shorter focal length will give you more depth of field. Finally, distance from the subject also plays a role; the closer you are to your subject, the shallower your depth of field will be.

How Does Bokeh Relate to Depth of Field?

In general, bokeh is the quality of the blur in a photograph. It is usually judged by how pleasing the blur is. Good bokeh often has soft edges and a smooth overall appearance. Bokeh occurs when part of the image is out of focus. The term “bokeh” comes from the Japanese word “boke,” which means “blur” or “haze.”

When Should You Use a Shallow Depth of Field?

Shallow depths of field are often used in portrait photography, as it helps to isolate the subject from the background. This can be especially helpful if the background is busy or distracting. It can also be used in landscape photography to draw attention to a specific area of the scene.

Related: Photography Techniques: The Comprehensive List I Couldn’t Find, So I Made It

When Should You Use a Deep Depth of Field?

Deep depths of field are often used in landscape photography and architectural photography, as it helps to keep the entire scene in focus. This can be especially helpful if there are multiple objects at different distances from the camera. It can also be used in portraiture to show the environment around the subject.

Complicated images will often have a lot of depth of field. They can be trickier for the eye to interpret and harder to produce. This is because of slower shutter speeds needed, and image composition really needs to be on point.


Now that you know a little bit more about depth of field, go out and experiment with it! See what happens when you change your aperture setting or move closer or further away from your subject. With a little practice, you’ll be able to use depth of field to take stunning photographs that are sure to impress your friends and family members.

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