Examples Of Depth Of Field

Wildlife Examples Of Depth Of Field

Looking at examples of depth of field applied differently in photographs is the best way to understand it.

Depth of field means the area in front of and behind the area of focus that is sharp. Examples of depth of field being shallow could be the stigma of a flower with blurry petals or the eyes of a grasshopper with its surroundings diffused.

Grasshopper; one of the examples of depth of field being shallow.

A wide depth of field could be an animal with all the scenery around it in sharp focus. Let’s look at how you can widen or narrow depth of field in your photography.

There are three things that affect depth of field;

  • The aperture (lens opening) setting
  • Distance between the elements that make the picture
  • The focal length of the lens

Lets look at these;

Lens aperture

Imagine you are walking down the beach. Gazing across the sand you spot a small group of sea birds with long necks. They are Cormorants.

The camera is in aperture priority mode. This means you change the aperture (lens opening) setting and shutter speed adjusts automatically. The range of aperture settings will depend on the lens you have. Confusingly a big aperture is represented by a small number such as f/4 whereas a small aperture could be f/22.

You set the lens aperture to f/2.8 to let in lots of light and get a fast shutter speed. The resulting depth of field is shallow. Only the cormorants are in sharp focus. The sand and sea are blurred. Decreasing the aperture to f/8 brings the surroundings in more. The rocks and sea are more in focus.

f/2.8
before
f/8
after

Walking past the cormorants and shooting from the other side means we can get the hills in the background too.

We want these hills to be reasonably sharp so decrease the lens aperture to f/16. You may now need a tripod to get sharpness. The resulting depth of field is wider. Now the environment is becoming a part of the image.

This image of Cormorants is one of the examples of depth of field including the environment.
Comorants where the area in sharp focus includes the environment

Lets look at some birds called Waxwings for some more examples of depth of field. For a single bird we’d most likely set the aperture to its biggest around f/4.

A single waxwing eating rowan berries. Taken with wide open aperture

To show a flock of birds we could decrease the aperture to something like f/8. So that most of the birds are in focus

One of the examples of depth of field where aperture needs to be stopped down to get more birds in focus
A flock of waxwings. Taken with stopped down aperture to get more birds in focus

Distance

Now lets look at some depth of field examples where distance comes into play. Even though the aperture is wide open at f/2.8 the depth of field still includes the trees and bracken. This is because the deer, trees and bracken are all close together.

The fallow deer here are examples of depth of field encompassing most of the frame as everything is close together.
Much of the image is in sharp focus as the fallow deer are in close proximity to their surroundings

If these trees had been further back they would have been outside the depth of field.

Here are two more fallow deer. Same aperture but this time the trees are further back.

Fallow deer in front of an out of focus distant background

Focal length

again the aperture is wide open but the depth of field is enough to cover all the distant trees and the other pony in the background. this is because a 17-40mm lens was used. Wide lens = Wide depth of field is quite a good way of remembering this.

Exmoor ponies with a wide lens giving wide depth of field.

When a 200mm lens is used the perspective is more compressed. The long lens has a compresses into a shallower depth of field. This is why wildlife photographers like to use long lenses even on animals they can get close to.

 

Exmoor ponies, with a telephoto lens to compress the perspective.

Hopefully you can see through these depth of field examples how lens aperture, distance and lens focal length are all factors in determining what is in focus.

Next time you’re in front of an animal consider depth of field when creating the picture. Do I want to go have a maximum aperture opening to isolate the animal from any distractions? Shall I stop down the aperture and bring the environment into the image too? What distances are between the wildlife and the other elements in the landscape? What lens could I use?