Aiming for super-small depth of field in macro shots

Most guides to macro photography, like my ones for example, recommend a small aperture (otherwise known as a big f-number like f/10 or f/16) to get as much depth of field as possible. But sometimes there’s an advantage in doing things differently.

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When you start focusing on things up close, the depth of field gets crazy small and the only way to counteract that — to get some depth of field back — is to keep making your aperture tinier. Which is what most macro photographers do.

But you don’t have to work that way. Opening up your lens to a big aperture (in the picture of the grasshopper above it was f/4.5) can give your pictures an especially tiny depth of depth of field in a way that can add lots of blurry interest to a shot.

And an advantage of using a big aperture is that, because it lets in lots of light, you can turn off the flash, even if you’re working your camera hand-held. So everything appears more natural.


A smaller-than-usual depth of field allowed a green frog to blur into its green surroundings.

With a tiny depth of field you have to be extremely careful where you focus though — I focused on the flat front of the grasshopper’s head and it took me a few goes to get it the way I wanted.

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Beginners’ guides to digital SLR photography


Before you start


The essential basics


Making sense of technical stuff

Photography words

Photography words explained


Sneaky stuff


Common problems and their solutions

Preying mantis

Taking things further


Photography at night

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