This week’s post for beginner photographers is inspired by the popular 52 Assignments photography book. It is all about depth of field or as author Adam Juniper calls it ‘the shallow end’. So, what is a shallow depth of field and what would you use it for?
Let me explain a bit about it and why, for cat lovers, it’s perfect for capturing a special detail, a close-up, or a portrait with a touch of bokeh behind it. [Revised May 2023].
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What is shallow depth of field?
It means that only the cat or object stands out in clear focus with most of the background that is further away is out of focus and soft focus.
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.Macworld
Shallow Depth of Field Tips
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.
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/2.8Photo Workout
If you use a DSLR camera at the shallow end of the depth of field you will be setting your camera at or near f.2.8. 52 Assignments – Instagram recommends settings of Aperture Priority (A on a Nikon) and then asks you to open the aperture as wide as you can.
Reminder for F Numbers
As beginners we sometimes go cross-eyed remembering that F2.8 is a wide and F22 is a narrow apperture. F2.8 is large and photographers refer to this as ‘wide open’, like your eye.
If you check out the paperweight photo here 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. Look carefully at the photo. There is only a narrow strip that looks sharp. The F number was, in this example, too narrow and it is worth starting at f2.8 or f5.6 if you are unsure.
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. Portrait mode on a smartphone, or an app such as Photoshop Camera creates an artificial depth of field that works well on Instagram photos.
TOP TIP: 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. To use this with confidence – practice focusing your smartphone.
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
- Control Focus and Depth of Field in an iPhone Macworld
- Mobile Photography and Depth of Field – Manfrotto
- What is F-Stop?
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can create impressive cat photographs and fun movies with the camera they carry.
She is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.