How Do I Get Shallow Depth of Field?

By Caleb Rexius

Shallow depth of field, aka background blur, aka bokeh (I’ll use these terms interchangeably), is decided primarily by these 3 factors:

1. Focal length:

The longer the focal length, the more non-focus areas will be blurred.

2. Distance from camera to subject:

The closer the main subject is to camera, the more they’ll be separated from the background, hence more blur.

3. Aperture:

The lower the aperture value, the more shallow depth of field you will achieve (e.g. a lens aperture of f1.4 will get you more bokeh than the same composition would at f5.0)

Crop Factor/Sensor Size

Another consideration is your camera’s crop factor or sensor size. Some cameras shoot “full frame”, which will allow for more background blur. Whereas a crop sensor like S35 or Micro 4/3 will have less bokeh.

Focusing on even a couple of these factors will have a big impact on your depth of field, so start experimenting!

Caleb is the Founder and Lead Cinematographer at Filmpac.

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