Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Shallow DOF

GRD III, f1.9, 1/40, ISO 64, RAW

A lot of people like big sensors because they can use shallow DOF with all subjects. With small sensors you have to be quite close but can also get some really shallow DOF. The focus here was on the edge of the tiny mushroom. Small sensors also are great at macro, especially the Ricoh cameras.
This picture shows how close you can get and that sometimes the DOF with a small sensor can be too shallow.


  1. In my ‘Few’ years experience of photography I have discovered that it is only other photographers who appreciate shallow DOF!
    Show the average viewer an image that is 20^ or more ‘Out of focus’ and they wont be very impressed.
    Only recently a new bride showed me her wedding photos. She was really disappointed with them because they were all ‘Out of focus” the keen photographer had isolated the bride and groom very nicely with his choice of aperture. Unfortunately all the guests in the background were out of focus!
    Good DOF with small sensors isn’t a disadvantage. It is a great advantage.
    Maybe if Weston and Adams had quality small sensor cameras they would not have had to form the f64 group!

  2. Rob makes good points.

    The use of DOF is an art, and its usefulness is very subject specific - the main subject has to be overwhelmingly the most important point of interest which is capable of holding the viewers interest.

  3. Like yesbuts mentions DOF is an art that can enhance a photograph when executed well. The art of photography in my opinion is often not to add as much as possible, but the competence to extract information from the composition that has no real value to the subject.

    And to Rob, it is not fair to compare bride photography to landscape photography. And I disagree that only photographers appreciate shallow DOF. When done well shallow DOF can be appreciated by average viewers as well. It is the strength of the photographer to make that happen.

  4. Thanks for your comments!

    Rob, I fully agree with you that shalow DOF use is most of the times purely a gimick to show off the lens or even worse to hide bad composition. I see it overused more often than not and most pictures look very lifeless and boring.
    Sometimes it's put to good use and then it's nice to have but unfurtunately you lose any advantage a fast lens will have on a camera with big sensor.

    Yesbuts, you are right, DOF use is part of creating art but only if it's used right. A lot of people overuse it and all you see is a face and a blurry background, this is not art in my view.

    Wouter, you are of course right but I think the real art is to use as many elements in a scene as possible without it becoming distracting. DOF should not be used to highlight the single point of interest but to enhance a composition with different elements in there.
    I agree that if it's done well shallow DOF can enhance certain images but too often it's overused.

  5. I know you dislike shallow DOF, so I was not sure about the real intentions of your posted photograph.

    What you write: "but I think the real art is to use as many elements in a scene as possible without it becoming distracting.", still boils down to same point I am trying to make. Since you most often can't arrange your scene (unless of course in a studio), it is, I think, the art to find a balance between the chaos of many information and subtracting some of it to focus more on the photographed subject.

    Maybe to get a better impression of what you dislike in shallow DOF and what you think is useful when shallow DOF is used, could you show me some links of photographs you like and dislike.

    Because I do agree that it is at times overused, but when done well it can really lift up a photograph in my opinion. Done well, it is a craft.