Photography tips - How to blur the background of your photos

What's an easy way to get a professional look to your portraits and close ups? Blur the background. It's an effect called 'Bokeh' - a Japanese word describing the quality of the out of focus parts of an image. It works great for close up photography, portraits, nature, and still life. Selective focus suits any type of photo that needs attention drawn to the subject rather than the entire scene. Here's four photography tips to help you achieve great Bokeh.

By restricting the focus in your photo to a limited area, attention is drawn to the parts you chose to focus on, and the background becomes just a wash of colour adding to the mood. 

How do you blur the background in your photo in the camera?

1. Open the aperture wider for a more shallow depth of field.

Using a wide aperture (f/4) the background was blurred, leaving the robot sharp)

Using a wide aperture (f/4) the background was blurred, leaving the robot sharp)

Your camera's lens has an opening for light to enter, this is called an aperture. Most cameras have a variable aperture and allow you to adjust its size by adjusting the f number
At the lowest available f number, for example f/1.4, your lens' aperture will be wide open, or at it's maximum, offering you the shallowest depth of field. As the f number is increased, the aperture shrinks, increasing the depth of field. Depth of field is the range of distance that appears to be in sharp focus. 

More expensive lenses with larger glass in the front can have apertures as low as f/1.2, while kit lenses can be limited to a maximum aperture of f/3.5, or even f/5.6. 

 


2. Use a longer focal length to blur the background more. 

The Brenizer method of photographing subjects uses a longer than normal focal length (or lens) to achieve blurred backgrounds. 

The Brenizer method of photographing subjects uses a longer than normal focal length (or lens) to achieve blurred backgrounds. 

Using a longer focal length (zooming in) increases the apparent blur in the background. This has an additional effect of compressing the perceived distances from the camera to the background, shortening noses, and appearing to bringing the background closer to the subject.

By zooming in, the actual depth of field doesn't change, but the angle of view is much smaller, meaning you'll only capture a smaller area of background. With a smaller angle of view, the rays of light entering the camera are more parallel, and the background appears larger, and less focused.  

The Brenizer method takes advantage of this by stitching multiple shots together at longer focal lengths, usually with a wider aperture to take the effect to the extreme, so that we can enjoy both the soft background, and the wider field of view. 

 


3. Get closer to the subject for that macro effect. 

Macro photography uses special lenses to achieve focus much closer than normal lenses will allow. An extreme of this idea.

Macro photography uses special lenses to achieve focus much closer than normal lenses will allow. An extreme of this idea.

By getting closer to the point of focus you'll increase the effect of background blur. By decreasing the distance to your subject relative to the background the effect is enhanced even more.

Macro photography introduces high ratios of background to subject distance by getting extremely close to the subject. Combined with longer focal lengths, and wide apertures, incredibly thin areas of focus can be created. This also works for any kind of lens or subject. Simply bring your subject closer to the camera, and further from the background to get that blur.


4. Combine these tips for maximum blur. 

By using a wide aperture, getting closer and using a longer lens beautiful background blur can be achieved.

By using a wide aperture, getting closer and using a longer lens beautiful background blur can be achieved.

Choosing a wider aperture, and a longer lens, then getting really close to the details, you'll get maximum blur and really restrict focus to the area you want the attention to be on.

By combining these three factors blurry backgrounds, or incredible bokeh can be created for any subject, also by understanding how to create blur, you can also do the opposite to have brilliant range of focus. 

Post your Bokeh / Blur photos and opinions in the comments below, and share these great photography tips on background blur with your followers and friends. Who's going to go first?