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Photography Question 
Rhonda Fleck

How to Get a Blurry Background?

I am having trouble making my background nice and blurry when taking portraits. I have been doing some reading and it seems that the lower number on the aperture (f2.8), the more blurry the background but that is just not working for me. Does anybody else have any other suggestions?

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12/13/2008 2:15:35 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  It's affected by lens type, and distance you are away from the background. So you have to consider those things too.

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12/13/2008 3:19:47 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  What camera and lens? Short focal length lenses will have great depth of field even at wide-open apertures. While compact digitals will have "35mm equivalent" lenses marked "35mm - 250mm", they will in fact have focal lengths of only 5mm - 25mm. In that case, the most you can do to blur the background in portraits is to move the camera closer to your subject and move the background farther away.

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12/13/2008 3:49:03 PM

Indrajit Hajra   Rhonda,
Two things are absolutely necessary for blurring backgrounds. The first and foremost thing is wide aperture. The wider the aperture (lower f number) the narrower the depth of field will be. Another thing is utmost necessary to blur backgrounds, although many photo enthusiasts ignore it. That is zooming in. If you are not using a prime lens or a normal lens (i.e your lens offers zooming action), then always try to shoot at the zoom-in end (for example, while shooting with a 18-55 lens, photographs will show much blurrier backgrounds at 55mm end rather than towards 18mm).
Hope this helps you!

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12/27/2008 10:05:28 AM

Kyle    Rhonda,
There are actually three factors that will affect your ability to reduce your depth-of-field and blur the background in a portrait.
The first is the aperture. The low number apertures (i.e. f/2,f/2.8, etc.) will produce your shortest, shallowest DOF's. In fact, the lower the number, the shallower the DOF.
The second factor is the lens' focal length. The longer lenses will have inherently shorter DOF's.
The third and final factor is the camera-to-subject distance. Don't expect to have a beautifully fuzzy background using a 50mm lens with your subject at 20 feet. Instead, consider using a lens in the range of 85mm to 135mm at a distance of say 8-10 feet.
You could actually use any telephoto lens and I've seen some shooters using 200-300mm lens on occasion, but lenses in the 85-135mm range are usually considered to be "portrait" lenses and using this combination does provide a few benefits. First of all, instead of being right on top of your subject, the greater distance moves the photographer out of the subject's personal space making them more relaxed. Then the gentle compression of the short telephoto lens usually has a flattering effect on the subject's features. Combine that with the aforementioned shallow DOF of a smaller f/number and you have a lot of the makings for a wonderful portrait!
I suggest that you take what everyone here has mentioned, experiment a little and have some fun. Take a look at some of the excellent publications that abound and find some portrait images that really appeal to you. Then study them and try to emulate them. Personally, I find portrait photography to be extremely rewarding and I hope you will find it the same. Good luck and I wish you a wonderful new year!

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1/3/2009 9:39:12 PM

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