How do I show depth in a photograph? Blurring in the foreground and focusing on an item in the background.

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    Could you perhaps elaborate a bit. Are you asking how one produces a shallow depth of field (hence blurring what is not the main in-focus subject), or are you asking about post-processing an image to try to achieve a 3D effect of some sort after the fact? Or are you asking about artistic techniques (e.g. leading lines) that might provide a sense of depth? I ask because you first asked a question, then made a statement that seemed to answer it -- so what exactly are you asking?
    – Linwood
    Feb 27, 2017 at 3:29
  • It sounds like he/she wants to maximize the depth of field
    – Alaska Man
    Feb 27, 2017 at 3:35
  • I guess that I want to know the lense settings that bring out the most vivid depth of field in a picture. I hope this helps explaining my question.
    – user61127
    Feb 27, 2017 at 3:51
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    .... which means this is well covered by existing questions and answers.
    – mattdm
    Feb 27, 2017 at 16:07
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    @Janas I prefer to fault the frustratingly exception-laden English language, rather than fault possible ESL speakers for not getting it right. After all, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese have the word "lente"; German has "linse"; Hungarian has "lencse". So there's plenty of precedent when coming from other languages to assume it should have a final "e". Even for native speakers, a singular noun ending with an "s" sound just begs for a final 'e' (e.g., sense, pretense, offense, license, expense).
    – scottbb
    Feb 27, 2017 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


How do I show depth in a photograph? Blurring in the foreground and focusing on an item in the background.

Using a large aperture (small f-number) will produce a narrow depth of field, putting objects that are either closer to or farther from the camera than the subject out of focus. The farther in front of or behind the subject, the more out of focus the objects will be.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer, that is what I was looking for.
    – user61127
    Feb 27, 2017 at 3:53

There are a number of techniques and it depends on what you mean by "depth".

One for example is leading lines, to have something (think a curvy road) shown leading from the front of the photo toward the primary subject in the back- or middle-ground. The entire photo can be in focus (or not), the path for the eye to follow can provide depth.

Subject "isolation" is a term often used for mid-field items with background and possibly foreground blurred, but the subject sharp. It is widely desired for sports photos, as an example, to isolate the subject from the (often busy) background or foreground. As a side effect it provides a 3D like effect, showing a form of depth. This is done by using the widest (smallest number) aperture you can get for a given focal length. Longer focal length lenses provide more shallow depth of field as well, provided the aperture is the same.

Perspective is another mechanism for isolation. As you move further from a subject (and thus usually are using longer focal length), objects in the background appear smaller relative to the foreground subject. Think about scenes you have seen of a wolf howling in front of a moon only slightly larger than the wolf - that's done by long focal length lenses. This sense of perspective - with the background seemingly small relative to the foreground, also provides a sense of depth (or at least increased size, and so prominence, of the subject). The longer focal length, as mentioned (provided the aperture stays wide) can also blur that same background if desired.

And obviously combinations of these get used all the time. My guess from the discussion surrounding the question is the isolation paragraph is more on point.


If you want to show the DoF effect put a meter on a table and take several pictures of it with different appertures.

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