Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Creating Shallow Depth of Field Canon SX130

There are couple ways to get a shallow depth of field. Most people who want shallow depth of field want the subject in focus and the background blurry. DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses that do shallow depth of field the best and our camera cannot really compete with that. With that being said, you can still get shallow depth of field with our camera or any point and shoot just bear in mind that DSLR's are ideal for that composition.

One way to get shallow depth of field is to use macro mode. Macro mode is the left scroll wheel button with the flower symbol. You can use macro mode in many modes in our camera except for some scene modes and auto mode. The idea behind macro mode is to take pictures of a subject very close up like a flower or a small object. By using this mode, the subject will be in focus and if the background is at a slight distance away from the subject then the background will be blurry, creating a shallow depth of field. The farther away the background is from the subject creates the blurry background (a sense of shallow depth of field).

I used macro mode here and got a really shallow depth of field. Also I did a slight color adjustment using photoshop. PP(post processing) your photos in any photo editing software can make a good picture better. I should have cropped out the leaf in the lower right corner so its less distracting but you get the point!

Another way to get shallow depth of field is to use Av Mode. Set the SX130 to the lowest F-stop number which is 3.4. Some cameras may have F2.8 and the cool Canon S95 has an F2.0.  Then take a picture of the subject being as close to you as possible without zooming since zooming will change the F-stop to a higher number. With the lowest f-stop and having the subject as close as possible and the background as far as possible creates the shallow depth of field. This type doesn't give you a shallow depth of field that is as good as the macro mode but thats just the limitation of our camera and all point and shoots. EDIT: After doing some research this method doesn't work well. The focal length is only at 5mm without zooming which makes it a super wide lens and a wide open aperture wouldn't do any good in creating shallow depth of field at this focal length. The best way to get shallow depth of field is either the macro way or the final way discussed in the next paragraph. 

The final way to get shallow depth of field is to zoom in as close to your subject without using digital zoom. With our camera we can zoom in 12x optically on a subject.  I use Av mode again for this technique and the F-stop will inevitably increase when you zoom but that is okay for this technique. After zooming in all the way with our subject in focus, take a picture while having the background as far as possible as well. For instance, if you are taking pictures of people against a wall, there will be no shallow depth of field. So if you like taking portraits, make sure you are zoomed in as much as you can and have the background be at least 6 feet away from the subject, though ideally have the background be as far away as possible. I use this technique most when I try to get shallow depth of field with a person being the subject. 

good example of shallow depth of field

I zoomed in all the way which made the F-stop to be F5.6 but was still able to get slight shallow depth of field since the background(people and building) were far away. Edit: shallow depth of field was due to the focal length being around 50-60mm in this pic along with having subject and background at a far distance from each other.
Again I zoomed in all the way on the subject. Background had a slight blur since it 's so far away.

 I didn't really get into the science behind getting shallow depth of field but just how to produce it with a point and shoot, specifically for the Canon SX130.  There are many other sites that explain in detail (much better than I can mind you) how aperture, distance, focal length, etc. effect shallow depth of field. I hope you guys find this info helpful. Learning about different techniques and what each mode does on a camera and when to use those modes will increase your ability to make great point and shoot photos. Good blog on composition in photography! check it out by clicking this line!! Also keep practicing(I know I will!) and Good luck! 


  1. hey, I chanced upon your blog when I googled "shallow DOF with sx130." i also just purchased the camera in october and have started a project 365, hoping to improve my photo taking skills. interestingly enough, i was just experimenting with the shallow DOF as you described above, just yesterday, and got pretty amazing results. i also checked out your flickr--i thought you are chinese, but pinoy? here's my blog: http://365bydantemom.blogspot.com/

    have you checked out www.digital-photography-school.com? lots of cool tips, tricks, and assignments to get an amateur photographer enthusiast like me.

    happy shooting! (like, taking pics, not shooting with a gun...)

  2. Hi M C

    Yea I'm in fact Filipino lol. I get mistaken for other ethnicities from time to time but I don't see it hahah.

    That DOF stuff is pretty cool and hopefully I'll be upgrading to a DSLR in the future but portability sucks with the size of the body and all the lenses since I like to take my cam everywhere and often. Anyway, I still gotta play with manual mode more with our current cam before I'd feel comfortable using a DSLR.

    That Project 365 you're doing is a cool concept. I like the idea that when you are finished you can see how your photography has evolved that year from a day to day basis.

    I've read a couple tutorials from that digital photography school website in the past but I'll be checking it out more often since it has a ton of info. Thanks for the link.

    The only thing about taking pics is that the photographer is rarely in them lol. have fun with your project and i'll be checking it out every so often!

  3. Yeah, a dslr can tend to be bulky and for sure, another bag to lug around. I have enough things as it is (diaper bag, stroller, baby) that if I had another thing to carry around, I'd for sure lose it. Our camera tends to be easier to just shove in whatever purse I'm using.

    I think our solution to a compact dslr is that Canon G12 micro thirds camera. It's a beauty. Have you seen it? You will salivate.... ha ha

  4. I've played with my cousin's G11 a while back and its great. I also messed around with the G12 at Best Buy. Pretty easy to use and I really like the swivel lcd screen...makes it easier to shoot from the hip!