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Blurring your background (Photo tip of the Day)

Posted by on May 8, 2012

Another quest and a new job begins. Yes, we’re still whipping up meals at the Gnome Cafe and continually attempting our hand at new cuisine but age and weight have given way to another occupation. We’ve started walking as a primary vocation. We now walk to breakfast. For us, that’s a bit of a stretch. Ranck’s Resturarant in nearby Bowmansville is a one-way three mile jaunt. It’s taking us about an hour to get there and hopefully that will shorten over time. But the post office is along the route so this gives us a chance to drop off any parcels that need to go into snail mail. A light breakfast, perusing the newspaper, several cups of coffee, and exchanging banter about our lives takes up the second hour. Now comes the hard part. The returning three miles is all up hill. That’s taking a bit longer but as a trade-off we’re taunting muscle mass that the years have hidden with fatty cells. The learning process along the way gives rise to new discoveries. You see, I always take my camera, always in search of the next “best photo”. I love to shoot at wide open aperatures, almost always at 2.8 so I can blur the background. A simple example of this is the four-leafed clover that Robin spotted on the walk. (She can find one a day. I haven’t found one in a lifetime.)

This photo was shot at 2.8 with an 85mm lens.

You probably know by now that if you want to put the background out of focus in a particular photo, choosing a wide open aperture such as f/2.0 or f/2.8 is the setting you want. Then why is your background still in focus at 2.8?  There is more to it than just the setting. For that to work, you actually have to zoom in somewhat on your subject. So, if you’re using a wide-angle lens (such as 18mm, 28mm, 35mm, and so on), even at f/2.8, unless your subject is extremely close to the lens, you’re not going to get that out-of-focus background you’re searching for. In order to get that soft, out-of-focus f/2.8 background that you’re wanting, switch to a telephoto lens, and know that the tighter in your are, the more out of focus the background will appear. So, at 70mm, it’s going to look a little blurry. At 85mm, even more so, as long as you’re fairly tight in on your subject. Move back 10 feet from your subject, and you lose it. At 120mm, you’re getting nice and blurry backgrounds when you’re zoomed in, and if you zoom in to 200mm, the background behind your subject is a mirage of blur.

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