Depth of field

Depth of field, also known as depth of field, refers to the area in an image that appears sharp and clear to the human eye. It is an important term in photography, cinematography and optics and describes the distance between the closest and furthest points in the subject that are still acceptably sharp.

Influencing factors:
The depth of field is influenced by several factors:

Aperture opening (aperture):

  • A large aperture (small f-number, e.g. f/2.8) produces a shallow depth of field, whereby only a small area of the image is in focus.
  • A small aperture (large f-number, e.g. f/16) leads to a large depth of field, which means that a larger area of the image remains sharp.

Focal length of the lens:

  • Telephoto lenses (long Focal length) have a shallower depth of field compared to wide-angle lenses (short focal length), which offer a greater depth of field.

Distance to the subject:

  • The closer the camera is to the subject, the shallower the depth of field.
  • A greater distance to the subject increases the depth of field.

Sensor size:

  • Cameras with larger sensors (e.g. full-frame sensors) tend to have a shallower depth of field than cameras with smaller sensors (e.g. APS-C or Micro Four Thirds).


  • Portrait photography: A shallow depth of field is often used to emphasise the subject and blur the background (bokeh effect). This draws attention to the main subject.
  • Landscape photography: A large depth of field is important to ensure that both the foreground and the background are in focus.
  • Macro photography: In macro photography, the depth of field is particularly shallow, which requires precise focussing.

Depth of field is a central concept in photography and optics that allows creative control over image composition and effect. By consciously choosing the aperture, focal length and distance parameters, photographers and filmmakers can achieve the desired sharpness and image aesthetics.

Related glossaries