For many entry photographers, when coming across a photo with a blur or sharp object may be attractive. Shooting photos with a blur may be one of the best reasons to get a DSLR or mirrorless camera. This effect is called Shallow Depth of Field. With 3 easy steps, you can shoot such artistic photo with any lens or camera, even with your mobile phone!

Three Easy Steps to Shoot Shallow Depth of Field

Step 1: Use a larger aperture

The first step is to adjust your camera to use a larger aperture. No need to worry if your lens does not have large aperture like f/1.4 or f/1.8. Just try to turn the dial and use the largest aperture on your lens, even f/3.5 or f/4 is fine.

Let’s see the effect of the depth of field with different apertures:

Focus on the first toy with aperture f/2.8. The other toys are very blur.

Focus on the first toy with aperture f/5.6. The other toys become clearer.

Focus on the first toy with aperture f/16. All three toys are clear.

Step 2: Use a longer focal length (zoom to tele end)

Assume you are using the same aperture, you will get a shallower depth of field (more blur background) with a longer focal length. Let’s see an example.

With the same aperture, using 50mm focal length has a less shallow depth of field.

With the same aperture, using 200mm focal length has a much shallow depth of field.

Step 3: Close to object

Actually step 3 has two requirements:

Close to Object AND Letting Background Further Away

This step is crucial to shooting shallow depth of field because it can multiply the effect of step 1 and step 2. Even you are using small aperture (e.g. f/8) and short focal length (e.g. 16mm), if you can wisely use Step 3 you can still get a shallow depth of field. Remember for some circumstance, you need to change your angle when taking the shot:

The background is the floor which is close the flower, resulting a less shallow depth of field.

The background is further away from the flower, resulting a much shallow depth of field.


By using the three simple steps above, you can almost shoot a photo with shallow depth of field by any camera and lens. For mobile phone, you may not adjust the aperture directly so what you should do is to maximize the effect of Step 2 and Step 3. Last but not least, you should know when to use shallow depth of field and when should not. Do not overuse such technique on every photos. Otherwise you may make thing worse and lost the meaning of a background. Beware!


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Author: Alex Tam