Q&A: How To Get Blurry Background Photos

So excited for my first Q&A blog post featuring a question from Yanique from Yanique B. Photography :)


My favorite thing is to capture beautiful creamy photos with blurry backgrounds (this is called Bokeh). Before I started photography, I thought that the blur was created afterwards in Photoshop. I didn't realize that it was something that happened in camera. There are a few things that affect the blurriness of the background.


1. Focal Length

Left: 50mm 1/500 f/2.5 ISO 640 ; Right: 85mm 1/500 f/2.2 ISO  800


Using a long lens gives you more of a blurry background than a wide angle lens. This is called lens compression. Longer lenses push everything towards the center while wider lenses pull out the edges (think fish eye lenses).


On a full frame camera (when you Google your camera body, it will say "sensor size" full frame or crop sensor), a focal length of 50mm is close to how the human eye sees things. You can think of focal length like zooming-- the larger the number, the further away you have to stand to get the same shot as with a shorter length.


In the example, on the left is my 50mm and right is the 85mm. The settings and where the couple is standing are about the same, but I got a much blurrier background in the right image. See the tree on the left? It looks larger, and is blurrier because of the lens!


2. Closeness To The Subject

85mm 1/1000 f/3.2 ISO 800


When you shoot closer images, you'll see more blur than when you're shooting from farther away. Both of these were shot with the same exact settings and lens-- the only difference is that the left is a closer portrait of them. This concept applies to phone images too!


3. Closeness To Background

50mm 1/400 f/3.2 ISO 1250


In the image on the left, the alter and the couple's bridal party are all sharp because they are on the same plane of focus (Meaning no one is really standing forward or backwards. They're standing pretty much in the same line). When the couple moves out of that line of focus and towards the camera (image on the right), their bridal party is now blurry in the background. This second concept also applies to phone images!


Want even more photo tips? Grab one of my free guides to get educational content in your inbox every week! My "For Photographers" page is now up here!


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