The Hypnotic Effect of Depth of Field

September 12, 2012

by Michael Reff, Videomaker

So you have questions, problems. Do not fear. First, you must gaze…deep…, deeper into my lens. Things are getting blurry, you are having trouble focusing. Never fear you are safe. You have merely dove deeper into…the Depth of Field.

Is Depth of Field a mystery to you? Are you hypnotized by the beauty of the softness but just seem to drift in and out of it from time to time not knowing how or why you got there? If so, you are very confused and I am here to help.

Depth of field is a very simple process to achieve. You could say it’s as easy as counting backwards. There are basically only three things you must do. But you must also remember that each one of those things affects the other. Do all three every time and you will have your viewing audience in a trance.


When ever you shoot, shoot as zoomed in as possible. The longer your lens, the higher the millimeter, the tighter the shot, and the softer the background will be. If your framing seems too close, back away from the subject. If your shot becomes too wide, try zooming in as you back away to maintain your framing. There may need to be a compromise here, considering your location. If you are inside, sooner or later you will run into a wall. If that is the case, consider shooting diagonally across the room. If you are doing an interview and your guest seems too far away from your interviewer, try moving the interviewer closer to the guest but keep them just outside of the field of view. The camera may seem a bit out of place but if shallow depth of field is what you want, back is better. If you are outside doing dramatic or cinematic scenes then shooting long on the lens probably won’t be an issue, however holding focus as your talent moves will be. When you are working with a short depth of field, moving subjects become a real challenge. Be sure to measure from the sensor plane to the points at which your talent will land. You can also try using a laser measuring device. It’s fast and can even be done while the shot is happening if the framing is not too wide. Otherwise you can always reverse the process by switching to a wider lens and moving in.

Want a lot more?  Click here to read more…

Michael Reff is Director of Photography at Turner Broadcasting.


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