Photography Tips: Blurry Background

Have you been taking all these photography tips to heart?  And you’re practicing on the “P” setting – that’s where you have to start (see more info HERE).  Now that you’ve done that for a few weeks, let’s move on to what you really want to know – how to get that great looking Blurry Background in your pictures.  It’s what everyone wants – subject in focus, bokeh (blurry background) in back.  Here’s my example:
See how her face is in focus and the bush isn’t (and the flowers aren’t either).  That’s what most people want to learn to do with their camera.  You’ll get this a little on the “P” setting, but if you’re ready, we’re moving to the next advancement in camera usage: the “Av” setting (for Nikons, it’s just “A”).
So flip your dial off of “P” and onto “Av” (or “A”).  That stands for “aperture”, or how wide the opening on your lens gets.  Aperture controls depth of field.  Or in other words, how deep you want the focus to go.  If you want the whole picture in focus, it has to go really deep, so that’s a big Av number.  If you want just a little bit in focus, that’s small depth of field, or a small Av number.  In the picture above my aperture number (it’s called an F Stop) was F/1.8.  When in Av mode your little wheel dial on top will change your F number.   So look what happens when I dial it way up, to F/14 for the picture below:
 
See how much more the bush is in focus?  That’s what a large depth of field will do.  But I’m sure most of you are wanting a small depth of field.  So use the focus lock technique and focus on your subject’s eyes.  Try it with a low depth of field and a high depth of field.  So you can get a comparison like this:
 
F/14 on the left and F/1.8 on the right.
A general rule: the number of people in the shot, the f-stop number you need to use (4 people: f/4, etc)
Don’t be scared of Av mode!  it’s just like P, but you choose your f number and then the camera sets the rest for you.
Now, many of you are probably using the lens that came with your camera.  If you are, you can only go down to f/5.6.  If you’ve never purchased a lens, let me point you in the right direction:

Sorry, the links won’t center, but here is the 50mm lens for the Canon or Nikon, whichever you roll with.  Anyone will tell you that this is the first lens you need to buy.  Price is great – most lenses start around $400, but these are at $100.  And most importantly, they will give you a low f-stop (lots of blur to your background) at F/1.8.  This is a fixed lens, which means it doesn’t zoom back and forth.  But you’ll get used to walking back and forth instead.  You can read the Amazon reviews, but I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing this lens.  You get so much more clarity than with the lens that came with your camera. 

Alright, questions on Aperture??  Go practice it!!

I know several of you have asked about actions in Photoshop Elements – that’ll be my next photography post…
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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this tip. I have been trying to figure out how to get better pics of my items, and this will help soooooooooooo much. Now I just have to figure out what lens hubby’s camera has (think it has a fancy lens, just not sure, LOL).

  2. says

    I have a Canon powershot S3 I don’t even know if I can buy a lens for this camera. There isn’t even a place on the top to buy a bigger flash. It is just a flip up flash. My Av goes down to 2.7 at the lowest and at the highest is 8.0. I still haven’t been able to figure out how to do focus lock with my camera as well but I can’t seem to figure it out. I use the P setting ALL the time now though. I love the tips you give. Thanks.

  3. says

    Thanks so much for your very clear photo tips

    I have had my camera on P now, and it makes a huge difference

    I now know what I need to do when chasing my grandson around, and he likes to pose, so changing over to A to try some shots this weekend

  4. says

    thank you for doing these! they are really making sense to me. One question…for a macro zoom lens..example, i need to take pictures of someone surfing…yarddddds away in the ocean..which lens (canon) would you recommend?

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