Tip & How-To about Cameras

Controlling Depth of Field

A photographed object will only appear sharp in an area a specific distance from the camera. The human eye and brain still accept some areas of the image as acceptably sharp if they lie near the plane of focus and already show a small degree of blur. This zone, which is still in acceptably sharp focus, is called depth of field.

You'd typically want a wide depth of field when shooting landscapes, so as to have everything from the flower in the foreground to the mountains on the horizon in focus. You'd typically want a narrow depth of field for such subjects as portraits and flowers, blurring the background to avoid distractions.

How large this depth of field is depends on the distance to the subject, the aperture, and the focal length of the lens. Whether you're shooting film or digital makes no difference.

If the plane of focus lies further away from the camera, the depth of field is wider than if the camera focuses on an object close by.

Small apertures (large f/numbers) result in a wider depth of field.

Short focal length lenses (wide angle) have a wider depth of field than long focal length lenses (telephoto).

The depth of field is determined by the actual focal length of the lens, not the "35-mm equivalent" often used in the camera specifications. Because most compact cameras have sensors much smaller than SLRs, they have much shorter lenses, giving wider depth of field. This is great for landscapes, not so great for portraits.

To get a narrow depth of field, set the aperture as large as you can (smaller f/numbers), move in close to the subject, and zoom in. If your camera doesn't give you direct control over the aperture, try using the Portrait mode. And yes, the last two items above, moving in close and zooming in, are in opposition, You'll have to decide on the best balance for your picture.

To get a wide depth of field, set the aperture as small as you can (larger f/numbers), move away from the subject, and zoom out. If your camera doesn't give you direct control over the aperture, try using the Landscape mode.

Before going on vacation or shooting your child's wedding, experiment with these factors. Shoot things in your backyard or at a park, trying for both narrow and deep depth of field, then look at the pictures on your computer.

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I have a Panasonic DMC-TZ3. Lately images appear to be vertically aligned in the view screen but when downloaded and viewed they are not aligned meaning buildings etc look like they are tilting. I have had this camera about 6 years. It has worked fine until now. Do you think it's me or the camera?


It's geometry. If you tilt the camera to get all of a tall building, the top of the building is farther from the camera than the bottom. Objects farther away look smaller than nearer objects. Thus the top of the building looks narrower than the bottom and the building looks like it's falling over backward. You see the same effect when you look at a straight road going off into the distance; the road gets narrower the farther you look. The human brain is wonderful at automatically compensating for this effect but the camera records the scene as it is.

Professional architectural photographers get around this problem by using expensive lenses which shift, allowing them to shoot up while keeping the camera pointed straight ahead and level. The rest of us solve this problem using a combination of two techniques. One is to keep the camera level and either zoom out or back up to get all of the building in the picture and then crop out the bottom. The other is to use a photo editing program with perspective correction capability. Programs such as the GIMP and Photoshop allow you to "stretch" the top of the picture.

Jul 30, 2011 | Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Digital Camera

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how do i the camera to take smaller pictures and if it is by using the zoom do I zoom in or out.. Thanks


Hi sportingnut4 ,

Thanks for the question ,

  1. If you mean by smaller pictures i.e. small in area you have to capture the images keeping the distance in perspective.
  2. If the distance between the image and camera is more , you would find the object being captures is small and if the distance is less , you would find that the object that has been captured is bigger.
  3. If you want to capture an object which is far away you can use the Zoom In function which would zoom your camera's lens in the object.
  4. If you have already Zoomed in , then to decrease the zoom i.e. to go away from the object as if you are increasing the distance between the object and the camera , you should Zoom out.
  5. Remember , Zoom out usually only works when you have already used the Zoom in function of the camera.
Hope this helps.

May 11, 2011 | Sanyo VPCE890 Digital Camera

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Red Eye


Does your camera's flash have a redeye reduction mode? It should tell you in your camera's manual. Some cameras use a pre-flash method which causes the flash to fire several times in succession before firing the shutter in order to give the subject's eyes time to adjust to the bright light.

Redeye is actually caused by the flash being too close to the camera's lens. That's why you see professional photographers using a flash attached to their cameras by a cable so they can move it away from the lens. Because you have a compact camera, there is no way to change this flash to lens distance.

You might also try just turning the flash off. Unless you are taking pictures in a very dark area, you may find the results to be very satisfactory.

Dec 26, 2007 | Fuji FinePix A500 Digital Camera

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