Photography Cheat Sheet: Four Depth of Field Decisions to Make

Understanding how depth of field works may seem baffling at first. But with enough practice, it will allow you to work with different lenses, camera systems, and subjects with ease.

Depth of field is another of those technical-sounding terms you’ll have to grapple with if you’re new to photography. It’s one of the essential creative controls that allow you to utilize sharp focus to determine the look of your shots. With this quick tutorial and cheat sheet, you’ll get a head start on mastering this concept by learning how to work with it in four common shooting situations.

In their tutorial, Digital Camera World shares to use depth of field to get the best results when shooting landscapes, portraits, close-ups, and low light scenes. These tips will come in handy for shooting different subjects and experimenting with various lenses or camera systems. The results may be confusing at first; if you’re new to the concept, you may want to check out this primer before diving into the cheat sheet below.

The cheat sheet shows us which aperture setting to use to achieve the ideal depth of field for each shooting situation. Basically, it refers to the area in the photo that will appear sharp and in focus. You control it through the aperture. The smaller the aperture (higher f-number), the deeper the depth of field and more of the scene will be in focus. This comes in handy when shooting landscapes, as indicated above. When shooting extreme close ups-and macro photos, you’ll want to choose a small aperture. Then, press your camera’s depth of field button and manually focus past the part you want sharp, then pull the focus back.

For portraits, shoot with a wide aperture to produce a shallow depth of field. This will blur out the background and isolate your subject. You’ll have to use wider apertures when shooting in low light as well, so take note of your focus: more areas of your shot may become out of focus and blurry. The tutorial also notes that the extent of the area in front and behind your subject that will look sharp also varies with distance.

Want to learn more about the topic? You may also want to check out our take on how the depth of field works.