Turn good photos into great photos with depth-of-field

Manipulating the depth of field in your photographs can help in turning good photographs into great photographs. The ability to do this is not limited to advanced digital cameras, either.

I’ll share four of my shots with you and explain how I achieved the results by using aperture controls that most advanced cameras have. I will then show you how to change depth of field even the most basic of point and shoot models.

What is depth of field?  It is the means of controlling how much of the image is in focus from front to back. Whether you use an SLR or a point and shoot camera the below techniques apply.

In my first photo, of the Oregon state capitol, there is great depth of field, meaning that everything in the shot is in focus. Most digital photos look that way.

Then in the next photo we see the same capitol building, but slightly out of focus and thus highlighting the flowers and making them stand out from the softer image of the capitol.  I laid on the ground for this shot, opened my lens in aperture control, and focused on the flowers so the building would become out of focus, on purpose.

In the third photo, I focused on flowers again, with a not as wide lens opening, so the background was just a little out of focus.

Llama Douglas (I don’t know how he got named Douglas) illustrates two things.  I put him out in a natural environment and again wanted the background fuzzy so the toy would stand out. Again it was a wide lens opening with the focus on Douglas.

If you own a point and shoot camera here are a couple of tricks you can use to regulate your depth of field.

In your Scene Selection options, there will be a Portrait mode or, in the case of my wife’s Sony, a Soft Snap mode.  Her manual says “Soft Snap allows you to shoot images with a softer atmosphere for portraits, flowers, etc.”  There will probably be similar information about the Portrait mode in your camera.  Thus you focus on the person or the flower and the background will not be as sharp.

There’s another trick to achieving a shorter depth of field.  You can accomplish that by zooming to the optical maximum, then focusing on the subject.  Again the background will not be as sharp because you have shortened your depth of field when zooming to the optical maximum.

I wish you great photos,

Earl Johnson


  1. says

    Your explanation on depth of field and how it can be achieved came across so simple and clear. Thanks Earl for the photography lesson for today.

    Ann Abbott
    Shutterfly Gallery Guru

  2. Joanna T says

    Woo-hoo Earl. LOVE this photo lesson. And I think I can manage this w/ my Canon Powershot. I have always wanted to try to get the blurred background. I thought one had to do that by using Macro.

    Thanks Earl.
    Shutterfly Gallery Guru

  3. Anita says

    Thanks so much for posting your techniques. Your information provides lots of great tips for taking photographs.

  4. shannonr says

    thanks for the tip, I had no clue what the Portrait mode was suppose to be used for beside….taking portraits. This was a very informative article and i will surely put your words to use, thanks :)

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