04 November 2011

You're Shallow...You Have No Depth.

Since I got my Canon T3i I have been obsessed with getting shots that have the subject in focus and everything else blurry.  I find the effect to be quite pleasing to the eye and it shows you what I wanted you to see.  This is known as DoF or Depth of Field and although relatively easy to achieve, it's quite hard to master the finer points.  Most of my photos where I want shallow DoF I use my Canon EF prime 50mm f/1.4 USM as it has a very low aperture value (f/1.4).  Essentially, the lower the f-stop, the more blurry everything but your subject will be, and higher f-stop means more in focus from foreground to background. I tend to run my camera in Av mode (Aperture Value) for most shots and have the propensity to stop it down to f/1.4 (wide open & fast) simply to achieve my desired shallow DoF result...bad move.  During sunny shots, WAY WAY WAY too much light is sucked in and the resulting image is overexposed and blown out.  Darker colors seem to fare well, but the lighter colors of sand or anything white look miserable.  To compensate for this (somewhat) I stopped the aperture up, made sure ISO was at 100, shutter speed was as fast as possible, and lowered my exposure compensation.  The results were hit and miss, but I did learn some valuable lessons and got some decent shots.

ISO 100, 50mm, 0EV, f/1.4, 1/2500
ISO 100, 50mm, 0EV, f/1.4, 1/800
ISO 100, 50mm, -1.7EV, f/1.4, 1/4000
ISO 100, 50mm, 0EV, f/1.4, 1/2500
ISO 100, 50mm, 0EV, f/1.4, 1/1000

Lessons Learned about Depth of Field:

  • The closer you are to the subject, the easier it is to achieve a shallow DoF.
  • The further your background is from your subject the easier it is to achieve blurry backgrounds.
  • Bright light is the enemy of a low f-stop, but can be managed.


  1. Great pics. Love the DOF on the spot light. To help with the bright light problem, some ND filters will help. I use them quite a bit. If you use them, just make sure they are neutral and not gray, or they will muddy up your color. :)

  2. Thanks Freya. I have a couple Tiffen filters (UV & Circular Polarizers), but they only fit my 67mm bezel/barrel (not sure what it's called). I guess that means I need to get an ND one to fit my Canon 50mm Prime as I like DoF shots.