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We can often see some photos, especially portrait photos, with effects called “shallow depth of field “. What is the best way for newbies to take such attractive photos? Is the equipment on hand sufficient? Let me answer them one by one in this article!

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Question: I only have an 18-55mm kit lens. Can I shoot beautiful shallow depth of field effects?

Of course! Even if you only have an entry-level DSLR and kit lens, novices can definitely shoot beautiful shallow depth of field! Learn about the 3 ways to “shoot shallow depth of field”!

3 ways to “shoot shallow depth of field”

  1. Increase aperture
  2. Using the telephoto end
  3. Distance ratio of camera, subject and background

The above are the three elements that shoot a shallow depth of field. Is it simple? Let’s start learning!

(Trick 1) increase the aperture

With a large aperture, you can easily create shallow depth of field. The large aperture does not mean that you must have a lens with f / 1.4, f / 1.8 and other apertures. Even if it is a set lens with a maximum aperture of f / 3.5, it can be done with the other two elements. can.

Take a look at these three photos together and you will understand the effect of the aperture size:

Aperture f / 2.8, the focus is on tofu, after seeing the two dolls are also out of depth of field.

The aperture closed down to f / 5.6, the focus was on tofu, and the red doll in the middle became clearer.

The aperture is further reduced to f / 16, and the focus is still on tofu, and the Snoopy at the end becomes clearer! Note that when shooting, if you want all the dolls to be clear, we’d better focus on the red doll in the middle, so that the objects before and after should be in the depth of field.

(Trick 2) Use the telephoto end

Assuming the same aperture value, the use of telephoto can make the depth of field shallower, for example:

  • Lens A: f / 4 aperture, 18mm focal length
  • Lens B: aperture f / 4, using 200mm focal length

At this time , the depth of field using lens B will be lighter than that of lens A, and the background will be more hazy.

Take a look at the following comparison chart:

Same aperture, 50mm focal length, not too shallow depth of field

With the same aperture, using a focal length of 200mm, the depth of field will become shallower than 50mm! (Note the grass behind)

(Trick 3) distance ratio of camera, subject and background

This is more difficult to understand in words. In practical application, it means:

“The camera is as close to the subject as possible, and the subject is as far away from the background as possible”

So even if the same aperture value and focal length are used, photos with this technique will have a more hazy background.

Just use the ground as the background, the background is not far enough from the flowers, and the depth of field is not too shallow.

Use the road as the background, the distance is far from the flowers, the depth of field is much shallower

Summary skills

So to sum up, for example, I am using the original kit lens 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6. To shoot a beautiful shallow depth of field, we can do the following:

  1. Set the aperture to f / 3.5 and use an 18mm focal length or set the aperture to f / 5.6 and use a 55mm focal length
  2. Follow the composition as close to the subject as possible
  3. Find an angle so that the subject is far away from its background
  4. Shoot

In this way, you will be able to shoot a shallow depth of field effect!

Question: Why can’t my aperture be adjusted to the “maximum”?

Many novices have similar problems when trying to shoot shallow depth of field, because the lens they use is not a “constant aperture” lens. The characteristic of the non-constant aperture zoom lens is that the “maximum aperture value” will change according to the length of the focal length. For example, the lens is labeled 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6, which represents the “maximum aperture value” at f / 3.5 at the 18mm At 55mm, the “maximum aperture value” is only f / 5.6 , so the longer the focal length used, the smaller the aperture.

In this case, should I use a long focal length (smaller aperture) or a large aperture (shorter focal length)? Which one to use depends on the environment (telephoto or close-up?). In fact, both can be used.

Constant-aperture lens allows you to use the largest aperture at any focal length

Photosensitive element also affects

To capture a shallow depth of field, the photosensitive element will also have an effect. The larger the photosensitive element, the easier it is to capture a shallow depth of field. Therefore, full-frame cameras are more likely to blur the background than APS-C / M43 cameras!

I hope you can make good use of the technique of “shallow depth of field” and don’t think that only expensive lenses can be taken! Try it today!

More reference articles:

  • What is “constant aperture”?
  • The relationship between aperture and depth of field
  • Fall in love with the big aperture-25 fantastic photos
  • What is Full Frame?


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Author: Alex Tam