Photo Challenge: Shallow or Narrow Depth of Field

Wow, this week’s photo challenge was a popular one, take a look at the photos submitted to our Shallow or Narrow Depth of Field photo challenge. Tell us which photo you like best and why in the comments, and scroll down to the bottom to find out what the next photo challenge is.

This photograph is from my visit to Nepal. Photo by Fatema Mustafa Ali
took this photo while riding a bus in Cambodia. This woman sitting in front of me slipped her hands above her head to rest atop her chair. I was mesmerized by her age worn hands and her contrasting gold wedding ring. Not the lowest aperture I could've used but I am pretty happy with the depth of field I achieved. Shutter Speed:1/80 second Aperture:F/4.5 Focal Length:70 mm ISO Speed:400. Photo by York Sylveste
Dewy blades of grass which I took early this morning. Focal Length - 5.1mm, f/2.8, 1/800s. Photo by Imelda Santore
Pentax K-r - 50mm @ f/2 - 1/6000s - ISO 200 Photo by Kieron Dickson
Sipping Gold - A shot of chilled Fireball Whiskey on a Friday evening. Photo by Aaditi Dutt.

Shot on a Nikon D7000. Photo by Louie Henry

Spotted this bird on a roof looking at me… Photo by Ronald Managbanag
Dust and city lights Canary Islands-2012. Photo by Christian Lage
Egyption Pound. Photo by beshoy badry
A woodpecker on a bird feeder, Pentax K-5 w Sigma 18-200. Photo by Peter Frisk Hansen
My beautiful boy chasing bubbles. Taken with the Sony A65. Photo by Jo Gub
Photo by Francisco Campanone
Message to the world. Photo by Kitz Eisma
Swift Sparrow. Photo by Ramesh Mohan
This photo is of my girlfriend taken in Garden of Dreams (Kaiser Mahal) in Kathmandu. Photo by Vinay Sharma
I took this picture in the Theodore Roosevelt Island Memorial in Virginia. The camera is a fuji x100. Photo by Adriana Gómez.
Sound of the Fender guitar can be hypnotic. Photo by Michelle Ericson
The attached photo is of a purple iris taken with a shallow depth of field using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel 18.0 - 55.0mm at f/4.5. Photo by Jasmin Sanchez
Photos are taken by Nikon D5100 - AF-S VR DX 18-55mm. Photo by Shoaib Awais Choudhary
This photo was taken at the Niagara Glen, a climbing area near Niagara Falls. You can see the blurred image of a climber in the background. Photo by Aaron Eden.
Shot with a Nikon D7000 and a 50mm 1.8 D lens at f/2.5. Photo by Bambit Gaerlan.
Red ant colony's highway. Photo by Panji Nushantara
Toad Portrait. Photo by Julian Schroeder
Photo by Jonathan Collazo
Photo by Omar Torres
Photo by Dante Granado
Children of Peace. Photo by Ian Lyn
Survival of the Nearest. Photo by Shival Sharma
Photo by Lorenz Henggeler
A picture of a dragonfly, shot using Sony DSC-W55, A small P&S camera under natural light. Photo by Paul John
You go out for a hike and notice that all the classic large open areas don't exist where you decided to camp. So of course it's time to get a closer look at things. Photo by Alex Blagus
This photo was taken with a Nikon D80 at an f/5.6 aperture and processed with Photoshop Elements 10. This is my cousin's dog Mickey. Photo by Stephen Mihopulos
While sitting on a park bench looking through the lens at potential shots, I zoomed in on this branch, when I focused on the leaves I was pleased to see the background disappear, so just had to capture the shot. I simply call it “Autumn”. Photo by Paul
Testing my new manual Vintage Minolta Rokkor-X MC 50mm F/1.4 Camera Lens on my Nikon D90. Low light condition. Photo by Mourad DACHRAOUI.
"Worlds Apart" This shot was taken at Canary Wharf next to Canada Tower (2nd tallest building in Europe). The area is iconic as the heart beat for London's financial district. The photo hopefully demonstrates two worlds: 1. The hard and cold world of business and finance, where things at the moment are rarely in focus and clear cut. 2. The colourful and organic world of flowers and plants, where things are balanced, vibrant and more in focus. I think the lady's face as she walks by with her headphones plugged in adds a nice sobering touch to the divide. Photo by Ed Neumann
Picture with a shallow depth of field taken with a nikon d7000 and a nikon 85mm 1.4 af-s. Photo by Espen Høydalsvik
Photo by Urszula
I just went into the garden and shot some photos with my 25-year-old 50mm lens on my Pentax K-r. It has a brilliant light sensitivity and creates a great DOF. I chose to go with this picture of a rhododendron flower. Photo by Robbert Vervuurt.
Photo by Arun
In this shot, the settings were made to shorten the depth of field to heads of the bulls. The rest of the body is blurred due to very narrow depth of field. Photo by Uttam Saxena.
Photo by Francisco Reis
Life is about to focus on key things rather than all. Photo by kunal Kothari
Photo by Girish Jain
This was taken last Friday afternoon when my son noticed the snake sunning himself in the bushes in front of our bay window. Photo by James Rule
I present you one of my garden elfs. The photo was taken with a Nikon D90 using a Pentacon Auto 135mm f2.8 , wide open. Photo by Catalin Adrian NEACSU
Patio tree frog hanging out. Photo by Jennifer Sutton
Photo by Kleber Ancona
Photo by Tim Matthews

This week’s photo challenge is: “Self Portrait”

Grab your camera and take a photo this week, and send them to, along with your name, and a short description of the photo. Please submit your photos by next Wednesday.


  • The photo should be taken by you
  • You may interpret the theme in any way you would like
  • You agree to allow us to share your image on our Blog and Facebook wall
  • You retain all rights to the photo
  • Submit your photos by next Wednesday
  • Please only submit one photo per week
  • Please include a short description of your photo, along with your name
  • Email your photo to
  • Be creative and have fun

Understanding Depth of Field

Understanding Depth of Field is important, this video by Dylan Bennett gives you a good overview of what it is, how it works and how to control it.

Example of Shallow Depth of Field. Photo by Stephen Heron
Example of Wide Depth of Field. Photo by John Bruckman

Depth of Field and The Circle of Confusion

depth of field
Depth of field is the distance in focus on either side of the focal point - by Ben Frantz Dale

Understanding Depth of Field, or DoF, is one of those topics in photography that may not be as intuitive as it may seem.

Most people grasp the concept that the wider your lenses aperture is open, which translates to a lower f-stop number, the less distance is in focus on either side of the focal point. The narrower your lens aperture, which is a higher f-stop value, the greater the distance in focus on either side of the focal point.

That’s the simple explanation, it gets more complicated from there. The reality is the focal distance on either side of the focal point is not a clarity cliff that stays sharp until you hit the edge and suddenly falls off. DoF is actually a continuum where the focus gradually falls off to the point it’s visible with the human eye. There’s no critical point in transition, until you can see it.

depth of field
The effect of a smaller aperture on depth of field, the smaller the aperture, the greater the DoF - by Chabacano

There’s even a term for that nebulous spot, caused by the light rays not coming into perfect focus, it’s called the “circle of confusion”, also known as the disk of confusion, and the blur spot.

The standard to determine an acceptably sharp circle of confusion is the distance a single point becomes so out of focus it’s noticeable on a standard 8×10 inch print viewed at a distance of 1 foot.

The circle of confusion changes not only at every f-stop, but it also changes with the lens focal length (how far it’s zoomed) as well. At smaller focal lengths, the DoF tends to increase, all other factors staying equal. Another factor is the distance to the focal point, how far away the subject is.

As you can see there’s a lot of subjective observation in that standard and, indeed, human eye perception is much finer than the standard lens manufacturers use. If that isn’t confusing enough, the circle of confusion is different for every print size and viewing distance. So take the DoF marks on your lens with a grain of salt and understand that near the outside edge, you likely see the difference.

To bring this around to some practical application, if you need depth of field, a good rule of thumb is to use the aperture priority mode on your camera and use at least f/8 or f/11. In most lenses the circle of confusion falls off quickly at f/5.6 or lower. If you’re shooting for bokeh, deliberately throwing the background out of focus, you’ll be shooting at f/5.6 or below.

Ironically filmmakers were drawn to fast lenses for the very capability of throwing the background out of focus! It’s not just still photography where the subject comes up.

DoF is another one of those subjects where it’s important to experiment on your own equipment and understand where your lenses fall in the circle of confusion. Don’t trust the factory marks, get out there and shoot some samples.

There’s no substitute for gaining an intuitive grasp of your lenses DoF and the only way you can do that is get out and practice.  Every lens will be different.  This should be a ritual the first time you get a new lens.