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3 Easy Ways You Can Create A Shallow Depth of Field

Joshua Noel

In this video tutorial, learn how you can easily create a shallow depth of field in your shots with three basic techniques.

Creating a shallow depth of field can help you produce a visually beautiful shot and provide eye-grabbing focus for your subject or talent. While a shallow depth of field might only seem easy with the right equipment, there are a few technical ways you can pull it off with inexpensive gear. In this tutorial, we look at three key ways to create that breathtaking “out-of-focus” depth of field: aperture, distance to subject, and focal length.


This is probably the most obvious way to control how sharp or shallow your image will turn out. Shooting close to wide open on your lens will help blur the background while retaining focus on your subject. The more you stop down on your lens, say f/22, the sharper your image will be. Aperture is important to control; however, it is perhaps the least important technical factor behind creating a shallow depth of field.

3 Easy Ways You Can Create A Shallow Depth of Field — 16mm

Distance to Subject

Distance to subject is no doubt the best way to create a shallow image.  The closer your talent is to the camera, the more out-of-focus your background will become. If you focus your lens thirty feet away, the majority of your image will appear in focus (including subject and background). So to create a shallow depth of field, think about how you can draw your talent or object closer to the lens.

3 Easy Ways You Can Create A Shallow Depth of Field — Aperture

Focal Length

There is a difference between a 16mm lens and an 85mm lens. When you use a 16mm lens, the background and subject will seem further away and the focus might lose contrast. However, using an 85mm lens compresses your shot and brings the background and subject closer together. This compression makes the background seem more out of focus than a 16mm lens can normally pull off.

3 Easy Ways You Can Create A Shallow Depth of Field — Focus Distance

Bonus: Subject to Background Depth

The preceding three techniques will help you create a shallow depth of field, but only if you maintain the right distance between your subject and background. Make sure to pull your talent away from walls, trees, or anything that would blend them into the background. No matter what focal length or aperture you use, if your talent is against a wall, you will not be able to create a shallow depth of field.

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