Shooting Challenge #37 -- Depth of Field (Plus, Win Some Meat!)

By Martin Snelling on at

After a few themed Shooting Challenges, it’s time for us to look at some techniques. We’re going to kick things off with depth of field (DOF) – specifically selective focus.

So, what is depth of field? It refers to the distance between the nearest and furthest objects in a scene that appear in focus; while everything outside of the ‘field’ appears out of focus. The size or ‘depth’ of the field can be controlled by you, although by how much depends on a number of factors; the one we’re going to look at is the ‘aperture’.

If you take a look around the front of your lens on your camera, you’ll see a number usually displayed as 1:x.x (where x.x is the largest aperture available to you). The smaller the number, the larger the aperture. A larger aperture (a smaller f number) will allow you to capture more detail in low light than a lens with a smaller maximum aperture (a bigger number) as it can let in more light. It also means you can decrease the size of the focus ‘field’ further to isolate the subject you’re photographing and create a punchier picture with more impact.

I could write paragraphs all about DOF but I’m going to save my arthritic fingers and share with you a really great video that explains what DOF is all about:

If you’re confused as to what DOF is and how you can control it, I strongly recommend that you spend a few minutes watching the above video.

And if you want to read even more and see some image examples of different aperture settings, head on over to Wikipedia as there’s a huge entry all about DoF.

The Brief:

As I touched on above, controlling the DOF allows you to selectively focus and create a punchier photo that can draw the viewer to the subject by blurring out the unwanted elements. And this is your brief: make a photograph which focuses on the subject by blurring out the foreground/background elements.

Digital Camera User? Set your gear to Aperture Priority mode to take easy control of your aperture.

Mobile user? Due to the smaller sensor, you’re kind of stuck with a small maximum aperture and so it’s quite difficult to achieve the blurred background effect. It’s not impossible though and there are a number of apps out there that could make it a tad easier to achieve. I have used ‘Background Defocus’ on my Sony Xperia Z with varying degrees of success.

The Example:

Good vs. Evil was captured on my X-Pro1 with 35mm f1.4 lens. I saw these fungi growing in my local woods and thought they were like two opposing forces about to do battle. Using Aperture Priority mode on the camera, I manually set the lens to f/2.0.

The Prize:

For this Shooting Challenge, we’ve teamed up with the world's first artisan charcuterie subscription service Carnivore Club to give one lucky person the chance to sample three months' worth of their delicious UK-originated meat-based boxes (the boxes contain meat and are not actually made from meat) that’ll be delivered straight to their door. Unless you’re one of those veggie or vegan types – who doesn’t love free meat?

The Rules:

- Follow the brief
- Submissions must be your own work.
- Submit up to five images
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Minimal image post-processing is permitted (global changes only)
- Explain briefly in your submission email the equipment, settings, technique used and the story behind the image/images.
- Ensure you include your camera’s aperture setting in your email copy.
- Please include your full name and address so we can ensure you get your meat!
- Ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameDoF.jpg
- Don’t forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, September 15th 2014 at 6pm UK time with “Shooting Challenge - DoF” in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location although please note that the prize is limited to UK residents only.
- The most important rule — HAVE FUN!

Martin Snelling is a Hampshire-based photomatographer and wearer of fine hats.
He tweets here and he is currently working on a
long-term photography project entitled View From This Side.