We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
2,862 Tutorials

How to adjust depth of field

Create great shots before or after the event

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you probably fall into one of two categories:

Category one contains the fun snappers, who love taking pictures and would like to learn a few quick tips to improve their shots. But as soon as they start reading about focal lengths and white balance they start to worry and put the camera back into auto mode.

If you belong in category two, you can be regarded as a hobbyist. You already know the basics and are constantly striving to add life and impact to your shots. And you’re not afraid of taking your camera out of its auto modes – you really enjoy getting your hands dirty searching through the menu to change the ISO settings, especially if it means you can turn off your flash.

But there’s good news for everyone. We’re going to show you some techniques to adjust a parameter called depth of field (DoF). You’ve probably seen photos where the chosen subject matter is in sharp focus, while everything else is blurred. That’s an example of a very narrow DoF, and it’s precisely the effect we’re looking for.

DoF is the photographer’s offside rule: everyone understands it but nobody can explain it succinctly. But here goes. DoF is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus.

Extreme DoF is one of a photographer’s most powerful artistic tools. Some cameras struggle with DoF, so we’ve included tips that will work on even the most modest of models. And if your digicam really can’t step up to the plate, there’s always editing software to fall back on.

So give it a go. DoF is a great effect all photographers can benefit from, no matter which category they fall into.

How to adjust depth of field manually

1. If you’ve got an old or cheapish camera, the chances are you won’t be able to control it manually. This makes playing with DoF tricky – but not impossible. Even the most basic digicams have preset shooting modes (landscape, sport, portrait and so on), which can be found in the menu.

Step 1

Step 1

2. Mastering these modes will allow you some control over your camera. Different modes will alter the aperture and shutter-speed settings, making it possible to obtain some DoF effects in your shots. If you want everything to be in focus, for instance, shoot in landscape mode. This will select your camera’s smallest aperture.

Step 2

Step 2

IDG UK Sites

Three of the most expensive Limited Edition games ever made: Who's buying a $1,000,000 game?

IDG UK Sites

Co-op's Easter egg promo site is an Apple parody

IDG UK Sites

Best Mac: Apple Mac buyers guide for 2015: iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini and...