How to Control Depth-of-field in automatic camera

Depth-of-field is one of the most creative controls you have in photography. Depth of field refers to how much of the image appears in focus in front of, and behind, the key point of focus in your image. But your camera seems to give you no direct control over this vital tool. Don’t despair. You may be able to “fool” it into giving you some control.

Shallow depth of field DOF
In an image with a shallow depth of field some elements will appear in sharp focus while the background and foreground of the image fall away into a soft blur.

If your camera gives you absolutely no control of anything, you are probably out of luck. But if your camera gives you different “modes” to choose, you’re back in business.

Let’s say you want a narrow depth-of-field. If your camera has a “Portrait Mode” or the equivalent, this mode is designed to favor an exposure with a wide aperture, and therefore a narrow depth-of-field. But if it doesn’t offer a “Portrait Mode,” all may not be lost.

Does your camera have a “Sports Mode” or an “Action Mode”? These modes provide an exposure that favors a fast shutter-speed. And a fast shutter-speed means a more open aperture, which gives you exactly what you are looking for – namely, narrower depth-of-field.

What if you want a wide depth-of-field. Does your camera have a “Landscape Mode” or the equivalent? This mode will give you what you’re looking for. It favors a narrow aperture, which gives you wide depth-of-field.

What if your camera offers only “Shutter Priority”? Same situation. If you want narrow depth-of-field, set the fastest shutter-speed the lighting conditions permit. Since the shutter speed is fast, the aperture will automatically be set at a wide setting, which will give you narrow depth-of-field. Conversely, if you want wide depth-of-field, set the slowest shutter speed you can (just fast enough to avoid camera shake) and this will close down the aperture. Presto! Wide depth-of-field.

Vishaal Bhat

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