Depth of field is a fundamental technical concept in photography. It refers to the amount of the field of view that is in sharp focus, and results from three factors: the lens aperture, the length of the lens, and the distance from camera to subject. In a photo with a very shallow depth of field, only a few inches—or even less—may be in focus. The blurred background that results is often considered ideal for portrait or macro photography, ensuring that the viewer’s eye is not distracted from the subject. For landscape photography, more depth of field is generally desired, so that all elements of the photo will be in focus. In this week’s post, we go beyond the basic understanding of depth of field that is typically gained in an introductory photography course and use depth of field as a creative compositional element. A shallower depth of field can bring a sense of dimension to what would otherwise be a “flat” photo, strengthening the separation of foreground and background. Alternatively, shallow depth of field can be used to bring focus to an unexpected element of the composition. Conversely, the photographer may choose a wider depth of field combined with carefully placed background elements to create a sense of movement through the photo. Wide depth of field is also frequently used in environmental portraiture, where background elements are important to the context of the portrait.
To view all of the images in this week’s dynamic gallery, please click here.