Written by Marjorie Dawson

In At The Shallow End #52Assignments No. 11

In At The Shallow End #52Assignments No. 11

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This week’s report on the 52 Assignments book is all about depth of field or as Adam Juniper calls it ‘the shallow end’. What would you use a shallow depth of field for? For cat lovers, it’s perfect for capturing a special detail, a close-up, or a portrait with a touch of bokeh behind it.

This assignment can be used inside and outside using any camera you have. I am using smartphone and DSLR shots in this post so the depth of field you see will vary.

ginger cat with flowers
Jack in the Garden ISO 200 50mm F 3.2 1/640 © Dash Kitten

What is shallow depth of field?

It means that only the cat or object stands out in clear focus and most of the background further away is out of focus and blurry.

Did you know? You can tell an iPhone where to focus by tapping on the screen. If you want the foreground in focus, tap on something close to the camera. Want the background in focus? Tap a background subject. 


Shallow Depth of Field Tips

Tigger (DSLR) ISO 3200 55 mm F 5.6 1/1250 © Dash Kitten

The F-stop in my photograph of kitten Tigger was not quite as low as it could have been but the background is nicely out of focus and 52 Assignments recommends somewhere between F2 and F5.6. Yes the ISO in my photo is very high but I was exploring lighting similar to Silver in an earlier post which is why the number looks much more dramatic than the standard outside ISO 200 or inside ISO 800.

The aperture contracts when you dial in a large f-number, such as f/11 and the aperture expands when you dial in a small f-number, such as f/2.8

Photo Workout

If you use a DSLR camera at the shallow end of the depth of field spectrum, the book recommends settings of Aperture Priority (A on a Nikon) and then suggests that open the aperture as wide as you can. This means F2.8 or as near as you can get with your own camera and lens. F 2.8 is a large aperture and photographers consider this to be ‘wide open’.

Paperweight ISO 200 50 mm F 1.8 1/160 © Dash Kitten

If you check out the paperweight photo you can see that I have used an F-stop of F1.8 which is as low as my nifty-fifty 50 mm lens can go. Each lens is different so if you have more than one, check each to see how high your F-stop can go.

Smartphone Depth of Field Tips

The book’s assignment notes that with smartphones the amount of bokeh (background focus) you get depends on the following:

  • The age of your smartphone.
  • The apps you use e.g. Afterfocus (iOS/Android), Big Lens, iPad).
  • or if you have the more recent ‘portrait mode’ on your smartphone. If you are not familiar with portrait mode, it gives your cat photos an artificial depth of field.

Mobile phone cameras can generate a shallow depth of field straight out of camera if the image being captured is extremely close to the lens. You will need to know how close you can hold your phone before it struggles to focus. Practice focusing your smartphone.

black and white photo of a cat in profile.
Monochrome Toulouse ISO 200 178 mm F 5.6 1/40 © Dash Kitten

Shallow End Instagram Filters and Tips

You can add these hashtags to your own favourites : #dof #depth #photography #catlovers

To add drama to am image boost your saturation and/or your contrast. This can be done before you add photos Instagram or other social media and it helps to push your subject into the foreground. An alternative is to use a black and white filter as I have done with Toulouse’s portrait. The use of sharpening should be avoided says author Adam Juniper.

This is a challenging area for smartphone users so exploring apps is a great idea.

Photo Resources for Depth of Field

Other Posts You Might Like:

Marjorie Dawson

Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.

She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

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7 thoughts on “In At The Shallow End #52Assignments No. 11”

  1. Sometimes I can achieve those results and sometimes not…LOL! The other day when I was taking pics of our flowers…well, I trashed a bunch, and the best ones went into my blog.You saw them.
    When I zoom in from ‘afar’. then I get grainier pics, but the background is more ‘bokeh. When I stand closer with the macro setting, well, who knows what will happen. If the green focus frame doesn’t come up, then the pic will not have good focus anywhere.
    I can do better with the iPad, but its much harder to hold steady. I have not found anything what can hold it still when I have it in camera mode. There are plenty such things for phones…And of course the camera takes better pics, in general. I did not use the iPad at all for those flower pics.

  2. We love those photos, such wonderful close ups and such sweeties. Thanks for joining our Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!


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