Photography tips - How to blur the background for amazing Bokeh

What's an easy way to get a professional look to your photos? Blur the background. It's an effect called 'Bokeh' - a Japanese word describing the out of focus parts of an image. It works for close up photography, portraits, nature... in fact, 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 more for a shallow depth of field.

Use a wider aperture (thats the opening in your lens) by choosing a smaller f number on your camera's settings. This will cause less of the scene to be in sharp focus, something we call a 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)

The reason why a wider aperture results in more background blur, and a thinner area of focus can be explained by a scattering effect. Think of a garden hose, with the nozzle almost closed, producing a thin jet of water. Since the water does not spread very much, over distance, the water's spray does not change very much. Now the same hose and water, with a wider, more open nozzle - the water sprays out, and the further it travels, the wider and softer the spray. 

Light travels in a similar way. A wide aperture allows the light entering to spread much more, causing a scatter effect from any light that is from out of the focus zone. The wider the aperture, the more this scatter occurs.

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

Zoom in more, or use a longer lens. The more zoomed in you are, the more shallow the depth of field. It'll also compress the scene, making distant objects appear to be closer, but more blurred out. 

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. 

An oversimplified explanation - 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 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. 

By getting closer to the point of focus you'll move the focus area closer, and throw the background more out of focus. This is how macro lenses work.

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 increasing the relative distance behind the subject, and decreasing the distance in front of it, the background blur increases. The greater the ration of background distance to subject distance, the more extreme the blur will be. 

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. 

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 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.

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?