Last week we focussed on how to make use of natural lighting for portraiture, and this week  I will look into ways of controlling depth of field for outdoor portraiture.

Depth of field is a term that describes the amount of the image that is in focus. Shallow depth of field describes an image where very little of the image is in focus. This brings the attention of the viewer to the sharp areas. A large depth of field describes an image where large amounts of the image are in focus.

In outdoor portraiture, or any kind of portraiture, at least one eye should be in focus for most images (unless exploring an unusual angle).

Aperture, focal length and shooting distance are the three major things that influence depth of field, and varying the value of each of these generates a different effect.

1. Aperture

This is usually associated with depth of field control – aperture is one of  the easiest ways to control the depth of field. For a shallow depth of field, choose a wide aperture (small f/ number) such as f/1.4 or f/2.8. For a large depth of field, choose a narrow aperture (large f/ number). More on aperture can be found here.

2. Focal Length

The longer the focal length, the more blurred the background becomes. Try a focal length of between 55 and 70mm to get a nice out-of-focus effect in the background.

3. Shooting Distance

The further you are from your subject, the greater the depth of field.  So, the closer you get to your subject, the shallower the depth of field. Beware, however, of getting too close as you will create unflattering distortion if you are too near to your subject.

Focus Modes

Select single or one shot autofocus mode on your camera, a mode which allows you to lock the autofocus setting on your camera.  For best results, manually select the focus point that you want, so it corresponds with the subject’s eye. More on autofocus, focus modes and manual focus point selection, click here.