Learn how to Achieve Blurred Backgrounds within Portrait Photography

Tips on how to Achieve Blurred Backgrounds inside Portrait Photography

how to achieve blurred backgrounds

How can you develop a beautiful, soft blurred background, like the one you see beneath?

background blur camera

It is a question I hear over and over from my students. But there’s a major misconception among new family portrait photographers : that to attain such a stunning background blur, you need to go out and buy an expensive lens.

And this is just plain wrong .

Because while it’s true that certain (often expensive) lenses are better for creating blurry backgrounds, it’s also accurate that several other key aspects go into achieving the soft background look – and most photographers fail to consider these factors and how they can be utilized for gorgeous results.

In other words:

You are capable of creating a striking blurred background, and you can possibly do it with the lenses you already own.

So if you want to learn how to produce that gorgeous background, then simply read on!

4 factors affect background obnubilate

Whenever you see the beautifully blurred background, realize that four factors together created the effect:

  • the aperture setting
  • the focal length of the zoom lens
  • the distance between the subject and the background
  • the distance between your digital camera and the subject

If you use a wide aperture, you’ll get a blurry background, sure – and this is what most photographers think of whenever they see beautiful background bokeh .

But you can use a relatively narrow aperture plus achieve the same look with a longer focal length, or by increasing the subject-background distance, or by finding closer to your subject.

So even though you have a lens with a relatively narrow maximum aperture, for example f/5. 6, you can get the look you’re after. You just have to carefully control the other background blur factors.

Make sense?

The background obnubilate factors: a quick demonstration

To demonstrate the elements affecting background blur, I’ve created some example pictures of a friend’s daughter (she was a more willing subject matter than my husband! ).

This first set of images was taken with my subject about 2 feet away from the front door of the house. The focal measures used for all the example photos are  (on a full-frame body) 16mm, 35mm, 70mm, and 150mm; note that I backed up with each chance to keep the framing continuous. Also, I am deliberately not divulging my aperture, though it is the same for every image.

subject with different focal lengths

Right now, the second set of images below was taken with the subject about 20 foot away from the house. Again, every time I changed focal lengths, I moved farther away to keep my subject the same size in the frame.

example portraits with subject farther from background

Now take a careful look at each group of images. What do you see?

Did you notice how much softer the background is in the 2nd set of images? Especially in the 150mm focal length?

Remember: All eight images were taken with the same aperture. The only adjusting made for the first set will be the lens focal length. And the only difference between the very first set and the second set is the distance between the subject and the background; I had our subject move several feet forward.

Yet what about the aperture?

As you know, I intentionally withheld the aperture – but would you be amazed if I said that all the images were taken at f/5. 6 ?

It’s accurate! I used an f/5. 6 aperture for each shot. Not the first aperture you believe of when someone states “blurred background, ” correct?

Which means that, as long as you have a lens that can capture at f/5. 6, you can get the same exact look.

One more comparison making use of f/2. 8

Just to further prove the purpose, here are two more pieces of images. All the shots are taken at f/2. 8, though the first arranged shows my subject situated close to the house, while the second set shows the subject positioned away from your house.

Are you able to see how much more the particular focal length and the distance between the subject and the history affect the background compared to the wide aperture? There’s not a big difference between these shots as well as the shots at f/5. 6 – but there is a huge difference between the images photo at different focal lengths, as well as the images shot with all the subject close versus definately not the background.

background blur at f/2.8 examples

background blur at f/2.8 (taken farther away from the background)

Capturing blurred experience: key takeaways

While using a wide aperture is a factor in creating a blurred history, it is not the only element. And in my opinion, it’s not the most crucial.

Instead, if you want to create beautiful backgrounds, make sure you:

  • Use a lengthier lens (I generally capture at 85mm or more time for portraits)
  • Ask your subject to shift away from the background (note that this also depends on the environment, so make sure you do a bit of location-scouting before taking out your camera! )

You can also consider getting closer to your subject; this will increase the blur, though it’ll also tense up your framing – just something to keep in mind.

Now, go look at the image at the top of the article again.

It, too, has been taken at f/5. six! Bet you didn’t reckon that the first time you looked at this, am I right?

And here’s one last set of examples to demonstrate you the power of a long focal length plus a distant background:

portrait of girl at f/2.8 background blur camera
Taken having a 200mm lens at f/2. 8

portrait of girl at f/2.8 with blurry background
200mm lens at f/2. 8

portrait of girl at f/5.6 blurry background in-camera
200mm lens at f/5. 6

Background blur: final words

Since you’ve finished this article, you understand how to create stunning background blur – and you understand that you do not need a costly f/1. 2 lens to make it happen.

Actually I challenge you to test this out yourself. Look for a willing subject, start all of them close to the background, then gradually move them forward. Test out different focal lengths, various apertures, and different distances for your subject.

In the end, you’ll have some spectacular shots – even if you just shoot at f/5. six and beyond.

Now over to you:

Do you find it difficult to get perfect blurred backdrops? Which of the tips with this article are you going to use first? Share your thoughts in the responses below!

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