The Ultimate Photography Guide to Depth of Field (DoF) | PhotoPills

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Join the discussion… Shawnie Lamborn • a year ago

An impeccable sharing of knowledge. Now to walk the path! Thank you so much! 1

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Shawnie Lamborn • a year ago

Thank you! And send us an email to [email protected] if you have any question. We're here to help :)

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jean-paul mission • 2 years ago

Amazing article! DOF in depth! I would love to have a dowloadable PDF to save it! 1

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jean-paul mission • 2 years ago

Thank you Jean-Paul! We're thinking on layout this article in a PDF or ebook :)

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John Kimbler • 2 years ago

Very well written, and it was nice to see an article discuss macro photography without "ZOMG you have to focus stack!" :) I shoot single frame macro up to 5x and can get a lot of apparent depth of field just by looking for those "magic angles" that make the most out of what little depth there is. Not that there's anything wrong with focus stacking, I just don't think it's necessary for the majority of the macro photos you see on the web. Plus looking for those magic angles allows me to take shots of active subjects: http://www.flickr.com/phot... BTW: The "bee" photo toward the top of the article is a hoverfly: http://www.flickr.com/phot... Regards, John

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John Kimbler • 9 months ago

Great article ! Was so helpful. Anyways, how would i focus on the hyperfocal distance using a manual focus lens like the Rokinon 14mm. On the focus ring the maximum value is 3m and then a straight line and infinity. how would i focus if the hyperfocal distance was more than 3m ? Thank you.

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Tam • 9 months ago

Hi!Using a manual lens is more or less the same technique. First of all, walk away form the subject a little bit more than the hyperfocal distance. Then, move the focus ring until you blur your subject, but have the background in focus (you're focusing to infinity). Then, slowly move the focus ring backwards until you get the subject in focus while also having the background in focus :) • Reply • Share ›



Tam

PhotoPills • 9 months ago

Thanks ! Will try that next time • Reply • Share ›

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John Kimbler • 2 years ago

Thanks, we've changed it :) Congratulations for you macro photos, they are awesome!

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PhotoPills • 2 years ago

Thanks! 1

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Bob Manning • 7 months ago

Awesome article on DOF. I'm new to photography and was struggling with DOF and getting objects at a distance in sharp focus while including foreground objects. Your discussion on DOF has been incredibly helpful. I have one question (for now) and that is how do you measure distance for DOF so accurately, particularly for objects several hundred feet away? Thanks again for a great article!

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Bob Manning • 7 months ago

Hi Bob! We measured the distance using PhotoPills, placing the black pin on the subject and the red pin on the shooting spot. The geodetic info panel (2nd top panel in the Planner) will give you the distance between pins.

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jon • 8 months ago

Very helpful articles. I have a question... when shooting a landscape. Let's say I'm using a 45mm at f1.8 because my foreground interest isn't that interesting. I have some long grass a few feet away from me and it is not possible for composition reasons to use a longer focal length my main subject is on a hill in the background a few hundred metres away... am I right in thinking that to blur out the grass (and i don't mean completely just enough to get the effect) I need to move further away from the foreground interest and bring my focal point closer instead of using the main subject. but only bringing it close enough to blur the foreground and still leave me enough acceptable sharpness in the background to keep my main subject looking good ? Also let's say in your naturally framed shot of the boat where it is blurred and the hut is sharp. Where would your point of focus be as I find with a lens wide enough to fit the hut into the frame that well doesn't allow me enough control over depth of field... i understand there are always times especially if your subject is on water for instance or you need to be stood in a certain place to get the shot you want that you aren't always going to be able to control the depth of field to get your desired composition but some straightforward tips on roughly where to focus in the image instead of measurements would be helpful and to show the same shot done with the boat in focus and the hut blurred etc thanks in advance if your able to answer I would be most greatful

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jon • 8 months ago

Hi John, With a full frame camera, a 45mm f/1.8 has an hyperfocal of around 38m. So, that means that if you focus at any distance shorter than this hyperfocal distance you'll have finite DoF. For example, focusing at 20 meters, you'll get acceptable sharpness starting from 13m to 42m. So, if your subject is closer than this distance it will be in focus, but the background and the foreground will be blur. If you focus, for example, at 40m (slightly further than the hyperfocal), you'll get sharpness from 19.47m to infinity. So, the grass won't be in focus, but the main subject on a hill will be. From our point of view, there's no need to shoot with this wide aperture in landscape photography. Why don't you close it to f/8, the image will be more sharp. A 45mm f/8 on a Full frame camera has an hyperfocal of 8.48m. So, you could focus to your main subject, and the grass won't be in focus. The hyperfocal distance is like a threshold. All focusing distances shorter than this distance have finite DoF. However, all focusing distances further to this distance, will have sharpness to infinity. And what happens with the foreground? Well, if you focus perfectly at the hyperfocal distance you'll start to have acceptable sharnpess starting from half of this distance. The worst case? Focusing to infinity. In this case, you'll get sharpness from the hyperfocal distance to inifnity, not that bad :) Example: Full frame camera. 45mm. f/8. Hyperfocal distance: 8.48m

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PhotoPills • 8 months ago

So basically what your saying if I understand it...if I stop down I'm decreasing the depth of field in the foreground but increasing the background and if I bring my focus point closer I will achieve more foreground blur but I may lose some overall sharpness if my focus distance is less than the required hyperfocal distance? • Reply • Share ›



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jon • 8 months ago

No, if you stop down (closing the aperture) you're increasing the DoF. What I wanted to say is that you don't need to open the aperture to the widest aperture to blur the foreground. You can get the result using f/8 for example. • Reply • Share ›

jon

PhotoPills • 8 months ago

My 45 mm is sharpest at f2:8 believe it or not also for low light photography in times where I can't be bothered to drag a tripod around with me it helps to shoot wide open but on studying a hyperfocal distance app I'm more confident I understand how to achieve the desired result • Reply • Share ›

jon

PhotoPills • 8 months ago

Im totally confused now... let me give you an example of what I did and what I was expecting to happen I partly understand where I went wrong but your reply has somewhat confused me more.... I took a picture of a stately home on a hill with a beach lower down at the base of some cliffs in between I was on higher ground at probably more than 200 metres away I hadn't fully grasped depth of field at that point and assumed that if I opened the aperture wide open and pointed the focus at the house that I would achieve the look of the grass being blurred but the beach and the house being sharp obviously the house was past the point of infinity on the focal scale.. Having looked into depth of field more since then I have discovered that if your subject is beyoond the limit of infinity i.e. The further away your subject is the more depth of field you will attain is this not correct? So now I'm confused when you tell me to stop down to f8 which I can completely understand why for image quality! that I can achieve the look that I want even with a 45mm lens but that I must bring my focus point or subject closer I don't really understand how the hyperfocal distance becomes less when stopping down I would have assumed it were the other way around given that the wider the aperture the shallower the depth of field. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer but I'm really not very good at understanding complex written information I'm much more of a hands on learn in the field kind of person so I guess I'll have to either find someone who can help me understand it in the field better or just keep practising alone until I understand what is going on ice looked all over YouTube to try and find practical videos to explain this I mean it's ok to go through all this hyperfocal theory but for me I just want to know roughly where I should be focusing to achieve either foreground bokeh, background or both. I don't struggle with a zoom lens I can generally achieve the results I desire it's when it comes to shooting wider angle that I have trouble • Reply • Share ›



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jon • 8 months ago

If you want foreground bokeh, just focus to your subject and play with the aperture. If you want background bokeh, you'll need to focus to a focus distance nearer then the hyperfocal distance to have finite DoF. • Reply • Share ›

Boris • a year ago

The calculator doesn't work for full frame lenses on crop bodies. Say I'm using a Nikon 35mm f/2 full frame lens, with subject 5m away. It will say the D7200 produces a shallower DOF (1.66m) than a D810 (2.58m), which is obviously not the case. The lens produces the same DOF on both. It doesn't care what sensor is behind it. The only thing that changes is the angle of view.

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Boris • a year ago

Yes, it works. You don't take into account the print size. It's true that the image will be the same on both sensors, with a cropped version on the D7200. But, for a given print size, you'll have to enlarge more the image from the D7200 than the D810 because the sensor is smaller. So, the DoF changes and it will be shallower int the D7200 than in the D810, because a blur spot that seems sharp in the photo shot with the D810, as we have enlarged it in the photo shot with the D7200, maybe it will no longer seem sharp.

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Tom Eden • a year ago

Wow! So much information! I'm a little confused though - what is the difference between focusing the lens at hyperfocal, and infinity? If I focus my Samyang 12mm at infinity, everything will be sharp from 0.65m onwards, right? Or am I missing something?!

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Tom Eden • a year ago

Hi Tom! If you focus at infinity you'll get acceptable sharpness from the hyperfocal distance to infinity. And if you focus at the hyperfocal distance you'll get acceptable sharpness from the half of the hyperfocal distance to infinity, so you are maximizing the Depth of Field. If your foreground is important, focus at the hyperfocal distance, because you'll get the closer elements more focused. In your example, using a Full Frame camera with your Samyang 12mm, if you focus at infinity it will be sharp from 1.2 meters to infinity (you can check it by setting a really huge number in the Subject Distance field). However, if you focus at the Hyperfocal Distance (1.2m), it'll be sharp from half of this distance (0.6m) to infinity. So, there's 0.6m of difference between the 2 methods. You have to keep in mind that not all the lenses are perfectly calibrated, so you have to check that the mark of infinity on your Samyang is correct.

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mddione • a year ago

I have two questions: a) Why lenses seem to 'be able' to focus beyond infinity? With this I mean the fact that you can, in manual mode, focus a very far object and then keep going beyond it, so when you reach the farther end of the focus ring, actually nothing is in focus, not even things several kilometers away (I would even say stars). b) Why is so hard to get hyperfocal right for landscapes? It seems to me that at 18mm it's actually hard to miss (numbers go from 4.5m at f/3.5 down to 0.75 at f/22). Maybe long shots are more difficult, but for 140mm it starts at 170m at f/5.6 down to 42m at f/22 (you guessed it, I have a basic 18-140 f/3.5-f/5.6 :). For some reason, to me this looks like hard to miss, specially with empty spaces. I ask this because next Monday I plan to take a picture of the (almost) full moon rising from behind this:

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mddione • a year ago

Hi! a) Why lenses seem to 'be able' to focus beyond infinity? To allow for thermal expansion when the lens gets hot. And also is used for the AF to detect when the image is sharp. Without going beyond, the camera wouldn't know when the image is really focused. You'll find more info here: http://www.bhphotovideo.co... b) Why is so hard to get hyperfocal right for landscapes? Well, it's not hard, the hyperfocal distance is only used for wide-angle or short focal length lenses. Why? Because it's easy to focus at this short distance. When using medium or large tele-photo lenses the hyperfocal distance is so far away, that's almost impossible to know where it is. This is already explained in the article. Just in the section "Deep depth of field examples". Here's the paragraph: "On the contrary, in landscape photography, when you’re using a telephoto lens (200mm, 300mm, 500mm), the hyperfocal distance is so large that you cannot focus at it. Since you’ll be using small apertures (f/11, f/16, etc) to maximize depth of field, the rule of the thumb is to focus about a third of the way into the frame. This trick works because when you are using these small apertures and long focal lengths, depth of field usually is distributed 1/3 (33.33%) in front of the focus point and 2/3 (66.66%) behind it. Make sure you’re not focusing at infinity, because you’ll get blur in the foreground." c) Why don't you have an RSS/Atom feed? We don't have a RSS/Atom feed at the moment. Meanwhile the easiest way to know when a new article is published is by signing up in our newsletter or following us on social networks. We publish one new article every 2/3 months, so we don't send a lot of emails. Promised. :)

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Shashank • a year ago

Best explanation of DoF I came across. Many thanks!

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Shashank • a year ago

Thank you! :)

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KUMAR • 2 years ago

Brilliant article.."focus about a third of the way into the frame"---- need some elaboration on this

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KUMAR • 2 years ago

Hi Kumar! It's already explained in the article. Just in the section "Deep depth of field examples". Here's the paragraph: "On the contrary, in landscape photography, when you’re using a telephoto lens (200mm, 300mm, 500mm), the hyperfocal distance is so large that you cannot focus at it. Since you’ll be using small apertures (f/11, f/16, etc) to maximize depth of field, the rule of the thumb is to focus about a third of the way into the frame. This trick works because when you are using these small apertures and long focal lengths, depth of field usually is distributed 1/3 (33.33%) in front of the focus point and 2/3 (66.66%) behind it. Make sure you’re not focusing at infinity, because you’ll get blur in the foreground."

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PhotoPills • 5 months ago

I've learned a lot from this great article, thanks for sharing. I also have some confusion regarding "1 third of the way into the frame", does it mean to focus on a point at 1/3 of the subject distance? • Reply • Share ›



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Meng Tong • 5 months ago

Hi Meng! No, 1/3 of the scene. In this cases you want to have infinite Depth of Field. Here's the paragraph of the "Deep depth of field examples" section: "On the contrary, in landscape photography, when you’re using a telephoto lens (200mm, 300mm, 500mm), the hyperfocal distance is so large that you cannot focus at it. Since you’ll be using small apertures (f/11, f/16, etc) to maximize depth of field, the rule of the thumb is to focus about a third of the way into the frame. This trick works because when you are using these small apertures and long focal lengths, depth of field usually is distributed 1/3 (33.33%) in front of the focus point and 2/3 (66.66%) behind it. Make sure you’re not focusing at infinity, because you’ll get blur in the foreground." • Reply • Share ›

John Kimbler • 2 years ago

Oops -did find one oversimplification: "Usually, beginners use a 50-60mm macro lens, amateurs a 90-105mm, and pros 150-200mm, which allows to comfortably shoot from a larger distance (30-50cm or even more)." IMHO focal length really depends on the light source that you want to use. If shooting with natural light then long focal length lenses work best, so you're not casting a shadow over the subject. But if you want to use a flash you're better off with a short focal length lens because you really need to get the flash, and the diffuser, as close to the subject as possible to help with diffusion and to keep the duration of the flash as short as possible (easier to freeze motion). I don't see how shooting with a long focal length macro lens qualifies someone as a "pro" -that would depend on the quality of their work and if they are getting paid and published.

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John Kimbler • 2 years ago

Hi! I use this Flash Kit, so it's not a problem the focal length. Using longer focal lengths allows me to comfortably shoot from a larger distance, without risk scaring the insects off. Regarding the classification, yes, maybe it's an oversimplification but it's what I've detected during my more than 10 years teaching photography... And many times it's a matter of price. A lot of people start using a 50-60mm and then change it for a longer focal length. In any case, pro photographers choose the best focal length that fits better for their work. Thanks for the comment! :)

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PhotoPills • 2 years ago

I use a similar flash and made a diffuser set out of Legos so I could easily modify it to test out new materials:

I've been experimenting with 1/4 stop white silk and I like the softness that I'm getting, really shows off compound eyes well: see more

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John Kimbler • 2 years ago

Yes, but this is a special lens! The Canon EF-S 60mm costs about $400 ;) • Reply • Share ›



John Kimbler

PhotoPills • 2 years ago

So a pro wouldn't use it just because of the price?... A pro will use whatever it takes to get the photo. It's not the gear that creates the image, it's the photographer... • Reply • Share ›



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John Kimbler • 2 years ago

That's not what I said... Read the previous comment: "In any case, pro photographers choose the best focal length that fits better for their work.". • Reply • Share ›



John Kimbler

PhotoPills • 2 years ago

My bad :) • Reply • Share ›



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John Kimbler • 2 years ago

This is usually my setup. As I use a Wireless Flash kit, I place them near my subject, so my focal length doesn't limit where the flashes have to be :)

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John Kimbler

PhotoPills • 2 years ago

That's great for static subjects, but I shoot anything that will let me get close and most of the time I don't have the luxury of staging my lights.

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Aaron Priest • 2 years ago

Very good article, Antoni! I enjoy shooting "bokehramas" at 200mm f/2.8, 400mm f/4, etc. for very shallow depth of field. For focus stacking, I thought I'd add that both Promote Control hardware remote and Helicon Remote (a companion program to Helicon Focus for smart phones) work exceptionally well.

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Aaron Priest • 2 years ago

Thanks a lot for the recommendations Aaron! Really useful as usual :)

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The Ultimate Photography Guide to Depth of Field (DoF) | PhotoPills

42 Comments PhotoPills Recommend 5 1 Login Sort by Best Share Join the discussion… Shawnie Lamborn • a year ago An impeccable sharing of kno...

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