Shallow Depth of Field with Drones

When movies are filmed, the director of photography will use a certain level of depth of field to help composite their image depending on the “look” they want. Typically shallow depth of field is used on longer lenses. This allows for the background and foreground elements to be blurry and out of focus, and allows the subject or talent to be in focus. This is how a DP controls where our eyes should look during the shot, since our eyes naturally gravitate towards objects in focus.


Shallow depth of field is used more on longer lenses. On wider lenses, most of the time, deep depth of field is used, resulting in the field of focus to be very broad, allowing for most of the elements in the frame to be in focus.  Just like in aerials, when you’re high and wide, we want everything to be in focus, so we’ll use deep depth of field.  When we’re flying longer lenses, like a 50mm, 85mm or longer, we like to shoot with shallow depth of field.

Now, I will say this is much harder to do since there are so many moving parts to a shot filmed by a drone. However, if everything is executed correctly, the results are amazing! In order to shoot with shallow DOF, you’ll need to have FIZ. This is when you have remote control over focus, iris and zoom. For this effect, the minimum you’ll need is control over focus.

On a film set, we typically have our pilot, a gimbal operator and then a 1st AC who pulls focus. If you have a really good gimbal operator, he can control the camera and pull focus at the same time.  We keep our aperture anywhere from a T2.8 to T4 for shallow DOF and then use an ND filter to compensate for the exposure.

If you’re flying an orbit around your subject, using the Alta in orbit mode allows for maintaining focus a lot easier. If you’re racking focus from a foreground object to a background object, then you’re going to need to rehearse the shot. Don’t get discouraged… there’s a lot of moving parts for a shot like this.


We have found the easier shots are dolly moves when your subject stays at the same distance from camera and when flying orbits.

Hope this tip was helpful.  If you have any questions, type them down below.


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