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  • Depth of Field (DOF) is the distance in front of and beyond the subject that appears to be in focus.
  • The depth of field is represented in the camera by ‘f-stops’.  Depending on the type of camera that you’re using, the f-stop numbers will normally range from about f/2.8 up to f/16.  The smaller the f-stop number is (f/2.8), the larger the aperture will be.  A large aperture produces a shallow depth of field.  A shallow depth of field translates to having the subject in focus while the background, or foreground, is out of focus.  This may be desirable when shooting portraits outdoors, or when you want to isolate a single object from its background (photographing a single flower in a field of flowers).
  • Although a small depth of field implies that other parts of the image will be out of focus, it does not, by itself, determine how much out of focus it will be.  If a background is close to the subject, it may be difficult to blur sufficiently even with a shallow depth of field.  In practice, the f-stop is usually adjusted until the background or foreground is acceptably blurred, often without direct concern for the depth of field.
  • The reverse of this is that the larger the f-stop number (f/16), the smaller the aperture will be, which in-turn produces a greater depth of field.  This is very desirable when shooting landscapes.
  • One thing to remember is that if you are using a longer focal length (ie: zoom lens) with a small  f-stop to shoot a single subject, as in a portrait, the portions of the face that are closest and farthest from the lens may be out of focus; even though it may only be a few inches between the two.
  • The best way I found to see understand the differences in the depth of field is to photograph a single flower in a field of flowers.  Shoot from a known distance using all the f-stops you can.  Change your distance from the flower several times and again use all the f-stops.  Keep a record of each shot (distance and f-stop).  When you’re done, view the results on a large screen.  It’s too hard to see the results on your camera screen.  By doing this it will give you a better understanding how it works, and how it plays out in the photography world.
  • There are also internet sites that further explain depth of field.

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