Learn the Terms > Aperture > Depth of Field

Controlling Depth of Field

Change aperture to change your depth of field

This next point is very important, so make sure you understand it before moving on:

You increase or decrease the depth of field in your photographs by changing the aperture setting on your camera. Aperture changes are measured in f-stops.

Just think of aperture f-stops as a measurement like degrees or inches. Here is a complete series of f-stop numbers, from small to large:

1.8  2.0  2.5  2.8  3.5  4.0  4.5  5.6  6.7  8.0  9.5  11  13  16  19  22  27  32

This is how aperture f-stops relate to depth of field:

SMALL F-STOP NUMBER = SMALL DEPTH OF FIELD
LARGE F-STOP NUMBER = LARGE DEPTH OF FIELD

Let's go back to the illustrations to understand this a bit better.

Illustration Four — Small Depth of Field

small depth of field

Illustration Five — Medium Depth of Field

medium depth of field

Illustration Six — Large Depth of Field

large depth of field

Here is the relationship between f-stops and depth of field again:

SMALL F-STOP NUMBER = SMALL DEPTH OF FIELD
LARGE F-STOP NUMBER = LARGE DEPTH OF FIELD

Now I've added the f-stop numbers:

f4.5 = SMALL DEPTH OF FIELD
f8.0 = MEDIUM DEPTH OF FIELD
f22 = LARGE DEPTH OF FIELD

Here are the most common types of photos taken at different apertures:

f4.5 = SMALL DEPTH OF FIELD = Best for portraits
f8.0 = MEDIUM DEPTH OF FIELD = Good for most shots
f22 = LARGE DEPTH OF FIELD = Best for landscapes

Let's take a look at some photographic examples to help this sink in.

Photographic examples of aperture and depth of field