Making Photos Pop Out of the Screen: Introduction to Depth of Field

Horn-shaped Have you ever wondered how that photo seems to be popping out of the screen? This post introduces depth of field in plain English.

Making Photos Pop Out of the Screen

Depth of Field (DoF) in a photograph is a distance to the sharpest point in the photograph from foreground. Some describe DoF as the range in a photograph that appears to be in focus.

Depth of Field is one of the most effective techniques that makes a photograph stronger. Even though, it is called depth, photographers don’t actually calculate or care about the actual distance or the depth. This term is more used in communicating and critiquing photographs.

Shallow Depth of Field

In a shallow depth of field, the main subject is in focus and everything else is blurred. This reduces clutter from the frame and audience is automatically focused on the subject.

Dof 01

For instance, in the olives photograph above only the first olive is sharply focused and rest are blurred to a varying degree. This photograph has a shallow depth of field and that makes the first olive pop out of the photograph.

Deeper Depth of Field

What is deeper depth of field? See the photograph below. What do you see?

DoF 03 In this photo above, more things are in focus and to a farther distance than the olives photograph above. In other words, this photograph has more depth than the first photograph.

Why Depth of Field Matters

Which one of the two photos matter? Olive or Cupcakes? I find olives photo more interesting. Why? While the composition in both photographs are different, the depth of field makes first photo something special. Can you see the oil (or some liquid, I guess) on the olive above? Look at the two photos again. Which of the two makes a connection? Which seems more appealing?

Depth of field when used correctly can amplify the impact that a photograph leaves. Shallow depth of field is specially helpful as it blurs everything that is not focused on and sharpens the main subject.

See some examples of wonderful ice cream sundae photos that use depth of field to create a wonderful photograph.

How to Use Depth of Field

In the upcoming posts, we will talk about how to create and use depth of field. Get the next post on depth of field by RSS or by email, if you haven’t already opted for it.

Photo Credits: Following are the credits of the photos we used.

  1. Horn-shaped by Bogdan Suditu
  2. Olive Photo by Darwin Bell
  3. Mini Chocolate Cupcakes by chotda
  • I have been practicing this recently. I think I get pretty nice results sometimes. Looking forward to the upcoming posts on this.

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  • I agree with you about the depth of field. I have the problem with my camera because it is a little pocket beginner camera and it never heard of depth of field. All comes rather sharp. I mean you get the occasional blur if you take the picture from some angle, but it never does what is required. And honestly even with my Potoshop skills it is really tough to create as effect because of the blur graduation. I managed to create one lately and I gotta admit the picture was taken to another level.

    • Viviane,

      If done right, depth of field can be achieved in point and shoot cameras too. It just depends what features you have too.

  • Geeze! I wrote Potoshop! Make that Photoshop!

  • I´ve been trying to do this but it´s not working, I have a (really) basic point and shoot, please i´ll appreciate any advice you coulld give me.

  • Any update on how to do Depth of Field? I’m using Photoshop. I hope you can share the step by step process on how to do this.

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