This image shows a shallow depth of field – the statue is in focus but everything else is nicely blurred.

There is a benefit you get when you use the macro setting on your camera and that is that when you use it your camera generally captures the image using a very small depth of field.

Depth of field is the area in focus around and in front of and behind the subject of the image. When you have a large depth of field, everything is in focus and where the depth of field is small, only a very small portion of the image is in focus.

Shooting with a small depth of field requires some skill because you have to make sure that the subject itself is in sharp focus – so that the rest of the image is not.

Check the LCD screen or viewfinder to ensure that the subject looks crisp and in focus before shooting. When you have taken the shot, check the image and zoom in to it and make sure the subject looks sharp – the LCD screen preview at the regular size won’t show clearly enough if you have the subject sharp enough.

Depth of field will be a new concept if you’ve only used inexpensive film cameras in the past. Automatic film cameras shoot with a very wide depth of field so that everything in the photograph is in focus. In the days of film, only SLRs were capable of capturing images with a small depth of field.

Digital cameras changed that and many point and shoot cameras can capture images with smaller depths of field if you know how. The secret is in using the camera’s manual controls to set the aperture manually rather than leaving the camera to make the choice. This same option is available with digital SLRs and the results, because of the lenses you use, are generally better with a digital SLR.

For a small depth of field, adjust the aperture to a value such as f2.8 or f3.6 so it is very wide and so the camera takes in a lot of light. To get a large depth of field so everything in the image is in focus, use an aperture setting of f8 or f16 for example. This setting lets in less light so the shutter speed will be much slower than when shooting with an aperture value of f2.8 for example.

Helen Bradley