Depth of Field in Wildlife Photography

Gerry van der Walt All Authors Leave a Comment

Last week I was in Madikwe shooting with a Canon 1Dx and the new Canon 500mm f/4 IS II.

Yes, I got some amazing images.

Yes, I loved shooting with the 1Dx.

No, it didn’t make my sightings or experience any better.

But, that is not what I want to write about today.  I will get to a more in depth look at the 1Dx later this week.

For now, let’s talk depth of field or DoF.

During one of our many lion sightings Gavin and I spoke about depth of field and how it influences wildlife images.  We all know that a wide open aperture such as f/2.8 will result in a subject ‘popping’ out of a nice soft background.

Yes, that is one part of it but it is also important to be aware that there are other factors that play a part in creating that lovely, soft, out of focus background – a shallow DoF.

There are four factors that influence the depth of field of an image.  They are:

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  • Aperture – Larger apertures such as f/2.8 and f/4 will give you a shallower DoF
  • Focal Length – A longer focal length will result in a shallower DoF
  • Distance to subject – The closer you are to your subject the shallower your DoF will become
  • Distance to Background – The further your subject from the background the shallower your DoF
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Check out this example I shot in Madikwe last week.

Depth of Field in Wildlife Photography - Gerry van der Walt

Canon 1Dx, 500mm, 1/2500,  f/4, ISO 2000

So looking at the four factors that influence DoF you can see why this lioness is so nicely isolated from the background.

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  • Aperture – I was on an aperture of f/4 so lots of background blur
  • Focal length – The Canon 500mm, a longer focal length,also helped with DoF
  • Distance to subject – I was about 12 meters from the lioness
  • Distance to background – The lioness was about 20 meters from the lion and bushes in the background.
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Wildlife photography is not difficult.

By knowing and understanding how your camera works, whatever brand you shoot with, and by applying a few very basic principles you have all the tools you need to create striking images.

The most difficult part is finding something to photograph!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

    1. Post

      Could most definitely have been an option Ze but must be honest, sometimes I forget the ISO up there and focus more on the composition. In the old days this would have been an issue but these days, with cameras like the 1Dx and D4, it’s not a problem. 🙂

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