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Dreamy Backgrounds – Controlling depth of field using aperture.

Skill level: Intermediate to advanced.


We’ve got a long bank holiday coming up here in London and I for one will be out shooting on one of the days so it’s an exciting and busy time. I’m always mentally absent a few days before because I’m working out so many things in my head. Checking and re-checking to make sure it all comes together as planned.

Yep, you heard me right. I did say, “As planned”. Good images don’t “just happen”; they are created. I’m going to stop here before I give away Tuesdays post today. On Tuesday I’ll be talking about my process of setting up a shoot so be sure to stop by for a “pick my brain” session.


So for those of you who have been following the blog, we’ve covered the basics of aperture in the “know your body” series, so we won’t go over those again. What we will do is discuss further uses of the aperture.

You are already aware that the aperture can be used to control exposure in an image so today let us discuss the term “depth of field”.

Depth of field is a measure of the distance in focus in an image.
The area in focus will be 1/3rd in front off and 2/3rds behind the point you focus on.


How many times have you seen those images where the person or object is in focus and everything else behind it is blurry or out of focus and wondered how that was done?


In as simple terms as I can put it, here goes:

If you set your aperture to a small number (eg, f 1.4, 2.8 or 3.5), then the background is going to be a lot blurrier or out of focus than if you have it at a larger number (eg. f.8, 16 or 22).

And that’s it. Now go practice. 🙂

A few tips before you do run off

1)   The first thing to remember is that the smaller the aperture number the smaller your depth of field so no group photos or you could find that the person in the middle is in focus and everyone else is out of focus.

2)   Not all lenses will have the ability to go as low as 1.4 or 2.8.

3)   How out of focus an image actually is will depend on not only the aperture but also the focal length.
Meaning a lens with focal length at 200 and f3.5 will have more out of focus areas than one at 50 and f3.5.


Make sure to practice and let me know how it works out for you. Remember, questions always welcome. Here, by email or personal message via my facebook page.


Happy Holidays. See you next week.


The image below was taken at a fashion shoot. Camera settings at ISO 100, F7.1 and 1/200.

Beauty Image of model Sheries

Beauty image from a Fashion project by Hannah Brewster. Make up by Mr Gorgeous and Hair by Deanne Chandler

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  • April 5, 2012 - 11:56 am

    CB - Striking image!

  • April 5, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    Kofo B @ Camera Mum - Nice post David and what a great picture. Absolutely stunning, beautiful model, lovely catch lights!

  • April 5, 2012 - 11:01 pm

    davidotokpa - Thanks CB.
    Hello Kofo, thanks for stopping by.

  • April 12, 2012 - 11:48 am

    Planning a photo shoot involoves a few things. Here are a few tips - […] resulting images from this shoot please click to view the “FIGHT CLUB” section of my PORTFOLIO. You can also download a pdf copy of the production file “HERE“ Share […]

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