Depth Of Field In Your Animal Photographs

In my September 7th blog, I posted a fun quiz (come on…it was fun) titled, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”

If you didn’t take that quiz, try now. Studying your images is the main tool to use to evaluate where you need more work on your photography skills.

Of course there are a trillion more things we can cover to improve our animal photography than the four simple pictures in that quiz. Take depth of field.

Depth of what?

Depth of field refers to how much of the subject, in front of and behind the point of focus is in sharp focus.

We control depth of field by the aperture number we choose. Large numbers produce a lot of depth in our photographs and small numbers produce less.

It’s important for animal photographers because we want the animals to stand out from the background and not blend into the scene.

As always, the concept is much easier to understand by studying photographs. Take these two images of my favorite subject, my Irish terrier Morgan.

 Shutter speed 250th of a second, ISO 400, depth of field, f18

 Shutter speed 250th of a second, ISO 400, depth of field, f5.6

Look at the grate behind Morgan. See how much more depth there is in the image labeled f 18 than the one labeled f5.6?

That’s the whole concept behind depth of field!

Ok. We get it. But to be sure, let’s set up a test for depth of field to practice this concept.

Quick review, exposure is controlled by the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO setting. So we’ll start by putting our shutter speed on my standard recommendation for shooting action, 250th of a second. Next we’ll set the ISO on either 200 (if the light is good), or 400 if it’s not.

Ok. Now we can play with the aperture setting.

Take a series of photographs of your pet at different aperture settings and study the background of each image on your computer.

Every lens renders the aperture in a slightly different way, so figure out what aperture setting you need to use with your camera for good results.

If you are a beginner using a point and shoot, no worries.  Your camera has icons to help fine tune exposure, so choose the PORTRAIT icon for close up shots. The camera will automatically set your depth of field to a smaller number.

Practice up, because we’ll build on this concept and try a more difficult exercise next time.

Good shooting!