I've been trying to change the depth of field on a Nikon D5200 for 2 hours and I can't seem to get it to work. I have to take photos and videos of people tomorrow (this is not my camera). The depth of field is currently too low to take photos in focus. I try to change the aperture size on the camera and there is no noticeable change even if I go from f/5.6 to f/32. Any ideas?

EDIT: After thinking about it for a little bit, is it possible that with the lens I am using, it is not possible to have the bokeh effect that I'm looking for (filming an interview)? I am using this lens: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/camera-lenses/af-s-dx-zoom-nikkor-18-55mm-f%252f3.5-5.6g-ed-ii.html

I think it may work for things with very low depth (a white board), but it's not possible to achieve a good depth of field for a person sitting in a chair or a group of people.

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you say there is no noticeable change, are you talking about no change when looking through the viewfinder, or when comparing shots taken at different apertures? Also, what focal length lens, and how far are you from your subject? \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 0:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ It almost sounds like you are getting nothing in focus? Do you have autofocus turned on? Are you using an AF-S lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 3:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Take a picture showing the issue & post it here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 7:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of How can I get dramatic shallow DOF with a kit lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't tell from your question if you're trying for shallow dof or everything crisp. If shallow, see link above. If crisp, and f/16 still isn't doing it for you...are you familiar with the term: hyperfocal distance? \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


Guessing, but are you taking the picture, or only looking at the view finder?

Because, the camera does Not stop down to the f/32 until the actual instant that it is taking the picture. Only the actual picture result will show an increased depth of field.

Otherwise, the lens is always wide open in the view that the view finder sees and shows, to show a brighter view. Then it only stops down to the setting at the instant of the picture.

I don't know your focal length or subject distance, but guessing you should see depth of field improve from about a 1 foot span to about 6 feet span (if f/32).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not that familiar with the 5200 but it should have a DOF preview button. On most Nikon SLRs it's on the front of the body, on the right side as you look through the viewfinder. It should be a small black push-button. Pressing it causes the camera to stop down to the selected aperture. \$\endgroup\$
    – Duncan C
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 0:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the D3xxx and D5xxx series bodies have the depth of field preview. But even if so, you are still limited to viewing on the small viewfinder, not as satisfactory as seeing a larger image. \$\endgroup\$
    – WayneF
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WayneF I'm used to using a Panasonic GH4 and I don't remember ever having any trouble with the depth of field. Is it possible that a GH4 has a depth of field preview already on? I just assumed every camera made it simple to view the depth of field? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ You did not say if you are taking the picture or just looking at the viewfinder? No, seeing Depth of Field is difficult. All cameras must leave the lens wide open to view and focus (to be a bright enough view for the eye), and then they stop down only at the instant of taking the picture. Closely look into the lens when pushing the shutter, you'll see it. Then try taking the picture, and then view that image on the computer. Depth of Field is computed to be viewed in a ten inch print. A tiny viewfinder view is too small to accurately judge depth of field, can't see any tiny details. \$\endgroup\$
    – WayneF
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JacquesThibodeau The Panasonic GH4 is a mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder and a smaller sensor. Your user experience using such a camera will be qualitatively different than using a camera with a larger sensor and an optical viewfinder. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 16:45

Depth of Field is create using a combination of shooting distance, aperture size, and focal length. To create more depth of field, you can either move closer to the subject, open up the aperture, or use a longer focal length. You can use one, two or all three to create the bokeh you are trying to achieve. Distance and focal length will make a larger impact on depth of field than just aperture size if bokeh is what you are going for. If you are shooting at too far of a distance, it will very difficult to get a strong bokeh without a very fast lens.

Here is an example of a portrait I shot at F/5.6

enter image description here

Despite using a smaller aperture, I was still able to get the strong bokeh because my focal length is 135mm at very close range of just a couple feet.


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