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Photographic Examples of Depth of Field

What apertures are common for portraits and landscapes

The first two photographic examples show how depth of field is altered by changes in aperture. The second two illustrate the usage of depth of field in portraiture and landscape photography.

Photo One — Small Depth of Field

In this photograph I focused on the quarter in the very front. This is where the plane of focus is located.

The mat underneath the quarter is also in focus.

The aperture is set to f5.6, so there is a small depth of field.

Both quarters in the background are completely out of focus.
small depth of field

Photo Two — Large Depth of Field

Same photo, same angle. Only one thing has changed — the aperture.

The aperture is now set to f32, and the depth of field has increased.

All three quarters are in focus, even though my plane of focus is still on the quarter in the front.
large depth of field

Photo Three — Portrait

This photo is another example of a small depth of field.

While the dog's face is in focus, the background is blurry, so that it is not distracting.

The aperture for this photograph was set to f6.7.
portrait

Photo Four — Landscape

Everything from the rocks in the foreground to the mountain in the background is in focus.

Using a high aperture setting ensures that everything within the depth of field is in focus.

In this case, the aperture was set to f11.
landscape

Common Photographic Mistakes With Depth of Field

Does this sound familiar? You take a great shot of your best friend standing in front of the Washington Monument. You get home, get the photo developed and lo and behold! The Washington Monument is growing out of your friend's head. How did this happen?

PROBLEM: Too much depth of field.

Even though the camera was focused on your friend's face, the depth of field was so great that the monument also wound up in perfect focus.

SOLUTION: Set your camera to a small f-stop (f4.5) and keep the depth of field shallow. Your friend's face will be in focus, and everything behind him or her will be softly out of focus.

Here's another one: you're visiting Yellowstone for the first time. You get to Old Faithful and set yourself up to get a great photograph. When the geyser erupts, you get the shot of a lifetime. But when you get home, it turns out that your camera was focused in front of the geyser, leaving the star of your photo looking blurry. You've probably guessed why.

PROBLEM: Too little depth of field.

The plane of focus was in front of Old Faithful, and since the geyser did not fall within the depth of field, it is out of focus.

SOLUTION: Set your camera to a large f-stop (f16) and increase the depth of field.

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