Home Photo Tips Digital Photography Tip: Depth of Field

Digital Photography Tip: Depth of Field

Depth of Field

Why is it that every detail in a photograph is not acceptably clear and sharp? The area in a photograph, from near to far, which appears to be in sharp focus is called depth of field. The laws of light, physics, and optics dictate that this sharply focused area extends from one-third the distance in front of the point of focus to two-thirds beyond. This range expands as apertures get smaller (higher numbers).

Knowing these facts and how to use them give photographers their most creative tool. A skilled photographer will use depth of field to emphasize a portrait subject by limiting the sharpness of a confusing background while a landscape photographer would use a small aperture to enhance the image by having tack sharp details from near to far.

Learning Depth of Field (free video)

What and Why

This digital photograph was taken by a Nikon D200 camera through a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 lens. It was supported by a Gitzo tripod and a Really Right Stuff ballhead. I wanted the eyes to be sharply focused but the background to be out of focus to make the chipmunk stand out, so I selected an aperture of f/4. With this aperture, the camera computed an exposure with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second to freeze the chipmunk’s quick movements based on an ISO of 720 (which the camera selected since it was on “auto ISO” mode).

Depth of Field (free video)

More Articles by: Steve Guymon, Outdoor Digital Photographer:
Digital Photography Tip: Depth of Field
Digital Photography Tip: Crop for Impact
Digital Photography Tip: Polarizing Filter
Digital Photography Tip: Finding Subjects
Digital Photography Tip: Can’t Stress this Enough Look Around
Digital Photography Tip: Look Around
Digital Photography Tip: Shoot Many Images
Digital Photography Tip: Be Ready


  1. I am a beginner so i am not so sure to start my friend advice me to buy a sony Z model camera because is only Rm1000 plus the problem is i am not sure that i am a landscape photographer or the other way round. My college is having a photograph competition with the them college life for students “.

  2. Yes, I think this is 1 of the best tools a photographer has, is there a website where I can see maybe 3 of the same photos, but each with a different f stop?

  3. This is really interesting. I can imagine all the ways you could use depth of field to enhance a picture. Cool! 🙂

  4. It’s true that when doing flash photography the flash has a limited range. I’m assuming that is why you were given a limit of a 200mm lens to use with the flash. There are external flashes that you can put closer to your subjects and free yourself up more but for a flash that mounts to your camera you are limited in distance as it is much less effective as you back away from your subject.

  5. I have a Bower Flash that I bought in NYC. It is not a Nikon flash but it works with my Nikon D60 just fine. The man at the camera store told me that it would only work with the 18-55mm & 55-200mm zoom..anything higher than that it won’t register and work. Is this true?


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