Monday, April 29, 2013

Achieving Shallow Depth of Field

So at long last I am ready to share the first of Rosa-May's photography tutorials (we are using that term quite loosely here).  Due to some unforeseen time restraints on Rosa-May's part, we have decided to do things a little differently than originally planned.  The tips you will find below are the result of a couple of discussions I've held with Rosa over the past few months (so, my words not hers), transcribed here in shortened form.  We hope you find them helpful!  I certainly have!

I know I'm not the only person who adores the aesthetic of images that use a shallow depth of field.  Rosa once explained that the reason these photos work so well is because all of the background 'noise' loses its focus and instead our attention is drawn to those details the photographer would like us to notice.  So very effective, and a lovely technique to use, if you are able to master it.  So I asked Rosa a couple of questions about what depth of field means, and how on earth to achieve it.  The words below are mine, the tips are hers ;-)

To begin with, depth of field is simply a way of determining how much of your image will be in focus. If your entire image is in focus, you have a large depth of field (which definitely isn't a bad thing either).  But if you want to capture a shot of the sweet, cherubic wee face of your little one, and leave all of those background distractions out, here are some tips for creating images with a shallower depth of field.

Depth of field is controlled by the aperture function, which is measured in 'f stops'.  If you have a high aperture, e.g. f22, you will have a large depth of field and the majority of your image will be in focus.  Using the opposite, a low aperture of around f3.5, will give you a shallow depth of field with only a small portion of your image in sharp focus.

If you are using an SLR (or DSLR) camera, try changing your aperture to a low setting and have a go.  If you aren't on an SLR and your current camera will allow it, try using Aperture Priority (A or AV on the top dial), and play around to see what you can come up with.  While you are practicing, ensure that there is a good distance between the subject you want in focus, and the area you want to keep out of focus.  The further your subject is from your background, the more out of focus the background should be.

If you are playing around with shallow depth of field, give some thought to what it is you want to focus on, and why.  It's a really lovely way to share little observations with your audience, some small detail that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  Have fun, and don't forget to post your cool pics on your blogs so we can all have a look!

All photos in this post are the intellectual property of Rosa-May Rutherford x

x Stella and Rosa-May

+ Rosa-May is a freelance photographer and illustrator.  She's also my sister (and she's pretty awesome).  To get to know Rosa-May better, visit her website, blog, felt store and facebook page.


  1. This is really great. Thank you to both of you for this helpful info! Hopefully in time I'll have enough guts and know-how to change the setting on my camera from Automatic to Manual;)

    1. Definitely switch it on to Manual!! Best decision I ever made! (Though I do OCCASIONALLY switch back to auto when I need some quick shots).

  2. this has been great. I'm one of those that has no idea once the setting comes off auto. I'm excited to go home and test it out

  3. Thanks for explaining this. I always wondered how to get these shots.

  4. oohh...looking forward to the next tutorial! You know how much I need to know! :)

  5. i need to get my camera manual out, i don't even know how to adjust the f stop do dad though i've tried! if i get a blurry background so far its purely by chance, it'd be awesome to do it on purpose!!!