3 easy steps to a blurry background

by Mary Jane

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Background blur…you want it, I want it, we all want it, right? If you’re a fancy pants you might call it bokeh. But, if you’re like me – you just say blurry – because that’s what it is. Although, bokeh really is kind of fun to say.

This is a technique that can take an “ehhhh” photo and make it fabulous. It can take a busy, despicable background and make it tolerable or dare I say, fabulous! Instead of feeling like an amateur you can feel like a magician with a camera. It will allow you to create photos that the human eye cannot see. You will constantly be impressing friends or on-lookers with your stealth photo skills.

Try it – you will be addicted.

Besides impressing people, which is always fun – you will also get drastically better photos. Any time you can make your subject pop out from the background to be the “star of the show” this is a veeerrrrry GOOD THING!

Try these 3 easy steps and see how you do! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

1. Choose a Wide Open F-Stop
A very large part of a blurry background is caused by a wide f-stop like 1.8, 2.8 or as wide as your lens will go be it 3.5 or even 4. The wider your f-stop is, the smaller the depth of field will be. Depth of field is the amount of the photo that will be in focus. So, if you focus on your subject’s eyes with a very shallow depth of field, the focus will not cover the background – and wahla – you gots da BLUR! Woo!

2. Choose a Long Lens
The longer your lens, the more background blur you can get! A longer lens allows you to get further away from your subject and zoom in, which will create greater amounts of blur. I can get amazing background blur with my 85, 1.2 or my 70-200mm, 2.8.

3. Position Your Subject Away from the Background
The further your subject is from the background, the more blur you will get. If your subject is right up against the background, it will be much harder to not have it in focus. So, separate your subject from the background as much as you possibly can.

If you do 1 of these things – you’re on the right track, 2 of them – you’re almost there and 3 of them – you’ll be in BLUR heaven. Promise.

Here’s are a few examples.

50mm – ISO 320, 1/2000 @ f/2.0

70-200mm shot at 130 – ISO 500, 1/1000 @ f/2.8

70-200mm shot at 135mm – ISO 500, 1/1000 @ f/2.8

70-200mm shot at 190mm – ISO 500, 1/800 @ f/2.8

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Subhamoy Hembram August 28, 2014 at 11:23 am

Thanks a lot. I will try.

Lorene September 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Thank you so much. Smart lady.

Danielle November 13, 2015 at 8:38 am

I took SLR photography in high school, and then only got my own DSLR a few years ago. Needless to say I forgot most of it, and the majority of photography websites are quite complicated! Thank you so much for putting this info out there in a fashion my blurred mommy brain can understand!

Matthew April 13, 2017 at 6:44 pm


Heidi April 29, 2017 at 8:24 pm

Thank you for this info! Do I need to set my camera to manual to do this?

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