Depth of field (DOF) refers to the area of focus between the nearest and furthest objects in focus in a photograph. In an image with shallow DOF, only a slither is in focus. A deep DOF means larger areas remain sharp and clear.

DOF is affected by the aperture – the opening in the camera lens that lets the light in. Like the pupil in a human eye, the aperture can open and close.

Resource by Lindsey Smith.

Step 1: You will need...

  • Camera
    (A DSLR gives you a lot more control over depth of field, but you can use a Smartphone)
  • Clear, colourful roll of paper to create a backdropCheck out How To Make a Studio Box

Step 2: More things...

  • A set of objects to photograph

Try to select objects that are similar in size, scale or subject matter.

Step 3: Arrange your objects

Play around with different compositions. Be sure to create some depth in how you set them up by making sure there is some distance between the nearest and furthest object.

Step 4: Set up your camera

Position the camera in a way that creates a foreground, middle ground and background within the frame. Use a tripod or place the camera onto a steady surface so it won’t move.

Step 5: Choose your main focus

Choose an object as your main focus. Check your object is in perfect focus. A DSLR (with auto-focus) may beep, or a rectangle on screen might turn green to show it has focused. On a Smartphone, touch the screen on the object to focus. Some phones lock the focus if you hold your finger there.

Step 6: Find your aperture setting

Use aperture priority setting on the dial on the top of a DSLR camera and symbolised as Av or A. This means you can select the aperture and your camera will sort out the other settings to suit your selection.

Step 7: Familiarise yourself with DOF

Aperture is measured in a sliding scale of f-stops, ranging from f1.4 – f32. For a wide aperture creating a shallow DOF use a low f number, and for a deep DOF with narrow aperture, a high number.  On a Smartphone you cannot control aperture, but DOF can be controlled by the distance between the camera and the main object.

Step 8: Experiment!

Take the same photograph multiple times, moving through different f-stops on your camera to see the impact it has. On your Smartphone move as close as you can without losing the focus on the main object for shallow DOF, or for a deep DOF move further away.

Step 9: Take your photographs

Once you understand how to take control keep experimenting. Play around with using different compositions, props and backdrops. Our example image was taken with an iPhone6.


Share your photos with us! Send us your photos by email or DM us on instagram @photoworks_uk and add the hashtag #depthoffield

Become a Photoworks Friend

Becoming a Photoworks Friend is the only way to receive a Photoworks Festival in a Box. Join now to get yours as well as a range of year round exclusive content, opportunities, invites and 20% off in our online shop.

Photoworks Opportunities

Keep up to date with our latest opportunities as well as ways to learn more about how to get involved with and support our work.

Sign up here

Become a Photoworks Friend

The only way to receive Annual 26 & get exclusive access to our events, content and a 20% shop discount