Depth of Field in Macro Photography

In our September 2016 meeting of the North Georgia Photography Club I gave a presentation on Depth of Field in Macro Photography. I’m far from an expert, so this sent me in search of information from the experts. The result was far more knowledge under my belt and a couple of new pieces of equipment. And there is nothing I like better than to pass on what I learned.

What is Depth of Field (DOF)?

  • Depth of field (DOF) refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp.

DOF is important in all types of photography, whether it be landscape, street scenes, portraiture, events, sports, close-ups, or macro. However, DOF becomes a difficult challenge in macro photography.

Why? In macro photography we experience extremely small DOF. So much so that it is nearly impossible to get the entire subject in focus in one shot. And we are usually so close our lense is almost touching our subject.

So what’s a macro photographer to do?

We have a few options, but each presents its own issues:

  • Close down the aperture. That helps a little bit, however, then we lose overall sharpness and light. Also, it might require us to slow down the shutter speed, which increases the chances of magnified vibration.
  • Open up the aperture. Doing so lets in more light and lets you use that sweet spot for maximum sharpness. We can also increase our shutter speed. However, it can make your DOF even smaller.
  • Move back from the subject. That helps a little more, however, now our subject is smaller in the frame and we lose a little more detail each time we move further back.
  • Focus stacking. Requires a tripod, a lot of patience, and post-processing, but this approach allows you to set your aperture at that sweet spot (for maximum sharpness). You take several shots, each time changing the focal plane. When done, you should have the entire subject in focus at some point within all those shots.

Using the right equipment like a sturdy tripod, macro lens or a regular lens with close-up filters), a camera rail (optional), a remote shutter release, and post-processing software allows us to take advantage of focus stacking, where we end up with the maximum sharpness of our subject, artificially increasing our DOF.

How Do I Learn More?

There are lots of excellent tutorials out there and I’ve listed a few here (no sense in repeating what they do so well):

Below are links to the Power Point slides and handout I used in the presentation. Feel free to save them and use them. If you’d like the original Power Point presentation, please email me at


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