How to blur the background in portraits – basic DSLR photography tips

Hi, this is Tom Greenwood from Now in this clip we’re looking at how to
create that lovely blurred effect in the background of your portraits. There are four main factors affecting the
amount of blur you create in the background of your shots. The first is the aperture that you use, the
second is the distance between the subject and the background, the third is the distance
between the camera and the subject and the fourth is the kind of lens you use, be it
a wide-angle, a normal lens or a longer lens. First let’s look at aperture. Now we’re
in the park and our subject is two or three metres in front of the rocks that make the
background. Here we’re shooting at 50mm. Now this first shot uses an aperture of f11,
a fairly small aperture and as you can see there’s an element of blur, but not very much. If we take the same shot at f4, which is a
fairly wide aperture, we can see the background is quite nicely blurred and the subject stands
out in contrast. So the wider the aperture, the narrower the depth of focus and therefore
the blurrier the background. So let’s have a look at the distance between
the subject and the background. In the first shot the subject is the same two to three
metres from the rocks. And now, using the same 70mm lens and the same aperture of f5.6,
the subject is less than a metre from the background. So, clearly the greater the distance
between the subject and the background, the more blurred the background will be. Now let’s look at the distance between the
camera and the subject. Both of these shots are shot at 40 mm with an aperture of f5.6.
The first shot was taken from about two and a half metres from the subject and this shot,
about one and a half metres. Now it’s not the most dramatic example but
you can clearly see the more blurred background the closer you, the photographer, are to the
subject. Now let’s have a look at the optical length
of the lens. So once more our subject is about two or three metres from rocks and the aperture
is f5.6 in both shots. Now this is shot at 24mm, so quite wide. Now
this is shot with a much longer lens at 70mm. You can see the difference in perspective
— also the increased blur with the 70mm lens. Finally lets put together a number of these
factors. Here we’re using an 135 mm and the trees in the background are quite a distance
away, something like half a kilometre. This shot uses an aperture of f11. Whereas
here we switch to f2.8. Our subject is lovely and crisp, and the background has that beautiful
soft, blurry texture. I hope you found this clip useful. Please
leave a comment and take a look at some of the other clips in the series. Good luck and
happy snapping!

100 Replies to “How to blur the background in portraits – basic DSLR photography tips”

  1. Yet I was sure that it depends on the Model type itself as everyone I see on youtube seem to be using the more costly brand as with me I only got the EOS 700D Brand

  2. I have Nikon D3300 with 18-55mm lens. Can I blur background with those ? If yes what should be the aparture for an outdoor image with green background at a distance of let's say 4 to 5 metres

  3. sir. i have nikon d5300 with lens 18-55mm and 70-300mm but their is no Auto focus and VR buttons on lens. why is it so sir? please explain me . thank you.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to share this information I appreciate it.

    I've also just joined your community keep up the good work I look forward to hearing from you Ken

  5. Good afternoon Mr Greenwood, I love your tutorial. I am getting my camera, in the next couple and is very excited about using it.
    By the way I've been to your country and I love me some Australia! Especially Melbourne it reminds me of New York City!

  6. Hello
    I have a question please
    why the focus does work only with small objects and very very close distances when we use smart phone cameras ?


  8. Guys anyone can tell me the settings with Nikon D 3400 how to adjust the apeture for blur back ground

  9. Very nice combination of verbal and pictorial instructions. Appreciate it.
    Now, you think perhaps you can cut a video explaining boolean algebra?

    Ps:- Just pulling your leg – but based on how you deal with the subject here…….

  10. where is the big hole and small home
    lence closing division, multiplication blah blah blah

    you are a good teacher ….thanks

  11. i love your tutorial thanks for this.
    i learned much of it. I am buying canon 3000d, is that good for me as a beginner?

  12. Really appreciated this video! Thank you, very much for the help! For some reason I am unable to “like” the video, however I was able to “like” some of the others comments. Thanks, again!

  13. 👏👏👏 now i can say, "i got it!"… watched many videos about blurring a background but none of them met my querries.. it is only here.. many thanks!

  14. This is the best video about this topic I've seen. All other just explained about aperture only. but know I realize that there are other factors into account. I was wondering why I had picture with big aperture and not blurred background. Now I know. thank you so much!

  15. Great presentation. Easy to understand, speech clear and right pace to follow. I gave it a thumb up and follow your channel. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  16. Save you three minutes: What you really need is a portrait lens. Without a wide open aperture and a good focal length, namely, a portrait lens, nothing would work nicely no matter how you play with the distance. For example, so you want the camera to be close to the subject? Do you really think that would work? You pretty much have to put the camera in front of the subject's nose to get a smooth bokeh in the background and you will end up with a macro shot of a mole on the subject's face.

  17. Thanks for the invaluable information and the tutorial. One question regarding the focus, do we use manual focus or auto focus?

  18. Wow thanks for the tutorial.
    Whatever I was thinking I was totally wrong and opposite of whatever you showed us.

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