Thursday, September 15, 2011

Easy-breezy lesson on Depth of Field for iPhone, Point & Shoot, dSLR. You Need This!

This week’s post is an easy-breezy lesson on how Aperture helps control Depth of Field (DOF) for iPhones, Point & Shoot cameras and dSLRs. It’s simple…….honest!

Aperture, or F-stops, help control Depth of Field (DOF) through your camera settings. DOF controls how much, or how little, of your image is in sharp vs. soft focus. 

Depth of Field Settings for Point & Shoot and iPhones:

If you use a Point & Shoot camera or an iPhone, you can control DOF easily.

Check your camera's manual for these settings:

For a sharp DOF with everything in focus use the automatic landscape setting. This is represented by the image of the small mountain on your camera.

For a blurred or soft DOF use the portrait setting which is typically represented by a lady wearing a hat. The macro or close-up setting, represented by a flower or Tulip, works well also.

See the photos of the flower bouquet, boats and little boy below for examples of sharp vs. blurred focus, DOF, and various Aperture F-stops. 


For dSLR users:

Setting your Aperture, F-stop,  helps control Depth of Field or DOF. Have you ever wondered how to keep your entire photo in sharp focus vs. having your main subject in focus with a soft blurred background? I’m referring to DOF. See the photos of the boats and the little boy below.

A large aperture, remember it’s a smaller F-stop number like F/2, will decrease DOF while a small aperture, remember it’s a larger F-stop number like F/16, will give you larger DOF. See the aperture chart below.

Remember – small aperture f/stop = large number
Remember -  large aperture f/stop = small number

Depth of Field:

Depth of Field (DOF) can be a little confusing at first but I remember it this way:

Small numbers like F-2 mean a small, narrow DOF (not lens opening but DOF) with a blurred background.

Small numbers  = shallow DOF = large aperture like f-2

Large numbers like F-16 mean a large, wide DOF (not lens opening but DOF) with everything pretty much in focus.

Large numbers = large DOF = small aperture like f-16

Refer to Aperture Chart and DOF Chart below.

Here's a DOF chart to help you:

Here are two photos to help illustrate DOF.

The first picture below was taken with an aperture of f/11 and the second one was taken with an aperture of f/4. The difference is easy to spot.

The f/11 picture has a wide DOF with everything in focus.  You’re able to clearly see the boats, the dock, the foreground and the background.


The f/4 image below has a shallow DOF and the background is out of focus. The little boy is in sharp focus but the background is blurred. This is due to the shallow DOF, f/4, and the little boy sitting a foot or so in front of the flowers.


Another way to gain a shallow or narrow DOF is to position your subject away from the background by several feet as I have done in the image above of the little boy. This helps blur the background putting emphasis on the subject.

Be sure and post a photo or two in your comment box. Post one image showing narrow (blurred) DOF and one showing a wide (sharp) DOF. We love seeing your photos.

To post a photo, open a comment box and click on the + in the lower left corner. Follow instructions, click the thumbnail to enlarge your photo for viewing.

Free: Email me at for your free Depth of Field Chart and Aperture Chart. They are very handy to carry in your camera bag.

Happy clicking and please Stumble me!


Tasha Wilson said...

Brilliant Mari! Really simplifies aperture and depth of field. A chart would be really handy. ;P xxoo

Rogueartist said...

I'm lovin' this review!  I'm even taking notes, because the older I get, the more I forget!!!

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Tasha, I will send you the charts. I'm glad you like this post. I'm really trying to break all this down to the easiest explanation. It's a lot of information to digest. :D  

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

That makes two of us lol. It's been an excellent review for me too :D.

Chintan said...

Mari :) you are a god send. I have followed your blog! One of the best photoblogs I have seen so far....and you explained the DOF so wonderfully.....

<3 xx

Alejandro Guzman said...

Thanks again Mari for the info  but i still only have an iphone 3  no idea if i can do the DOF lol

Cheers A

Anna Sides said...

Thanks Mari for sharing this information.  I always have a hard time remembering the numbers :)

Mary Hudak-Collins said...

Mari, excellent post!  I do not use my phone to take many photos as I usually have my camera close by.  But there have been times that I have.  I didn't realize that a lot of that could be changed on the camera and will definitely have to check it out :)  Thanks for sharing!

Syed Alfandi Syed Mansor said...

nice..all kind of cameras nowadays, but the same old principle..and you summed it up just nicely..

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

It would be the same for a Point & Shoot for most iPhones so read the first part of this post. Check your manual also :D My son shoots with an iPhone and his photos are excellent and very impressive. 

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Stunning photo! Love the bend in the river - it beckons me to keep going into the photo visually.

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

I have a Point & Shoot that I love for horseback rides and other places/events where i don't want to use my heavier, more expensive camera. The Point & Shoot does so much! I just had to read through the manual a couple of times.

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Thank you Syed. I just got a 50mm for my Nikon D90 and I'm really loving it. It's about time I got it lol. Next will probably be a macro, not sure. 

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

I will be happy to email the aperture and DOF charts if you send an email request to or PM me on my FB acct. :D

wan maznah cooking varieties said...

hi mari, this is great, now I know definitely without doubt
the differences in auto settings. I feel good reading your tutorials, you sure
can be a good  lecturer, because you know
how to reach your students- bulls eye :)

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Wan, thank you for your support. I find teaching fun, especially when it is teaching something I love to do.  I added one of your posts to my friends FaceBook Holiday Group and everyone loves it. I'll be adding more. I hope it drives traffic to your blog :D This one:

AJ said...

Thanks for explaining all this in plain and simple English. Jargon gets me even more confused. :)

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

This can be confusing info for the best of us - breaking it down to its simplest form makes the learning process so much easier. :D 

SyedAlfandiSyedMansor said...

cool, no more looking fat in the photos..and I've learnt Disqus from you..easier to keep in touch with comments..

PK Talli said...

Hi Mari, I have tagged your blog here :)