Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Taking Portrait Photos with Blurry Background and Understanding Depth of Field


We have all seen beautiful photos where the object is perfectly focused while the background is blurred. Such a photo can be very dramatic and might seem to be hard to shoot. In this article we will give you a few tips on how to shoot blurry background photos that will impress your friends and family. You will also understand what Depth of Field is and how to control it.

Depth of field (also known as DOF for short) is the most important thing to understand before shooting a blurry background photo. Depth of field is defined as the range in which the photo is in focus. For example an infinite depth of field means that the photo will be in focus from a certain distance from the camera and up to infinity. When taking a blurry photo the goal is to set the depth of field just around the object. In this way the object is in focus while the background behind it is not.

How do you control the depth of field? After all there is no “depth of field” menu in the camera (wouldn’t that be nice…). Depth of field is an optical figure that is influenced by a few factors:

  • The distance of the object from the camera: This is obvious to understand when taken to the extreme. Shooting an object 10 feet from the camera will result in a smaller depth of field than shooting an object 100 feet from the camera. Obviously shooting an object which for all practical purpose is infinite distance from the camera will result in the camera focused on infinity and the depth of field being infinite too..
  • The aperture: The wider the aperture (f number decreases) the smaller the depth of field and vice versa: the narrower the aperture (f number increases) the greater the depth of field. Just remember that the depth of field changes along with the f number: when the f number increases and depth of field increases and vice versa. Unfortunately you can not just change the aperture as you wish. Changing the aperture results in a need to change the shutter speed (either manually or the camera can most likely do that for you automatically). The wider the aperture the more light that penetrates the lens and the faster the shutter speed needs to be so there is a limit to how wide you can set the aperture to.
  • The focal length of the lens: The shorter the focal length the greater the depth of field and vice versa the longer the focal length the smaller the depth of field. For example if you use normal lenses at somewhere around 50mm your depth of field will be much greater than if you use zoom lenses at 200mm. With long focal length the depth of field can be extremely small. For that reason zoom lenses are a good choice in order to shoot a good blurry photo that is practically focused only on the object.
  • After understanding the theory it is best to go to the field an experiment. You will get a sense of how your photo will look like and how blurry the background will be after playing with different lenses, different apertures and different distances from your object. If you own zoom lenses start with taking photos of a relatively close object while using your zoom lenses. You will find out that it is extremely easy to get a blurry background photo using this method even without setting the aperture. Once you feel comfortable with that setup start changing the aperture and also change to your normal 18mm-55mm or similar lenses.

    Most cameras allow to manually change the aperture by putting the camera in “A” mode – while you are changing the aperture the camera will automatically set the shutter speed accordingly. Some cameras allow you to manually set both aperture and shutter speed.

    In conclusion shooting dramatic blurry background photos is easy with some minimal understanding of depth of field and some experimenting.

    Digital Photography Success | Web Article Directory

    Where there is no vision, the people perish.
    Proverbs 29:18

    The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
    Psalm 24:1-2

    He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
    Psalm 104:10-13

    Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
    Matthew 6:26

    How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number living things both large and small.
    Psalm 104:24-25

    Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
    Ansel Adams

    When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls!
    Ted Grant

    While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.
    Dorothea Lange

    When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
    Ansel Adams

    Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
    Henri Cartier-Bresson

    You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
    Ansel Adams

    Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.
    Matt Hardy

    Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.
    Elliott Erwitt

    Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
    Imogen Cunningham

    You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.
    William Albert Allard

    If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.
    Garry Winogrand

    I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good.

    Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
    Ansel Adams

    It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.
    Timothy Allen


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