How to get a blurred background

If there is one thing that people most want to know when they are starting out, it's the trick of getting your subject in sharp focus, whilst leaving the background blurred. This is used a lot in portrait photography, as it allows the subject to really stand out and be the main feature, and I find this is also useful for lifestyle photography, when you are probably working with less than ideal background! 

Getting a blurred background is actually quite simple to do, it just needs a little bit of practice!

Here's a step by step guide to what you need to do (and if you want to be able to have these instructions with you when taking an image, I've got a "cheat sheet" that you can download and keep!) 

1) Set your camera to aperture priority mode.

This will allow you to set the aperture manually but the camera will take care of the rest of the settings, like shutter speed and ISO, which together with aperture, controls the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor. As you get more proficient, you will want to manually set all three in Manual Mode (which really is not as scary as it sounds! I walk you through it step by step in my Auto to Awesome ecourse) but for now we'll keep it simple!  Turn the dial on the top of your camera to AV or A mode. 

2) Set your camera to a low (small) number.

Aperture is measured in F stops and how low you can go will depend on the type of camera you have, and the type of lens. (A kit lens may only go down to 3.6 but other lenses will stop lower, say 1.8 or 1.4)) If your lens only goes down to 3.6 then I would suggest using this setting. If you have a prime lens that will allow you to stop down 1.8, then choose a few stops above, say 2.8, otherwise you may have problems with nailing focus.  Using a large aperture (small F number) is the first step in getting a blurred background! The lower you go, the more blurry the background will be.  You can read more about aperture and how it affects your images in this post on Understanding Aperture.  It's worth a read to really understand the affect changes to your aperture can have on your images! 

How to get a blurred background: a step by step guide!

3) Make sure your subject is a reasonable distance from the background. 

Don't worry too much if you can't stop down as low as you would like with your aperture, as there are some further things you can do that will enhance the background blur.  The first is to make sure that your subject is as far away from the background as possible.  Basically, the further away your subject is from the background, the more blur you can get. If your subject is right up against a wall it doesn't matter what you do, you'll not get much blur!  

4) Stand further back and zoom in on your subject or use a longer length lens. 

A longer length lens will give better background blur (it basically magnifies the blur, making it look even more out of focus)  So, if you have a zoom lens, stand back and zoom in, or if you have a choice of lenses, choose the one with the longest focal length.   

5) Focus on your subject and take the photo! 

Press your shutter down halfway to set focus on your subject, wait for confirmation that focus is set (usually a green light) and press the button!  If you are having trouble getting your subjects in focus, here's two tutorials that can help you: How to Get Sharp Photos with Moving Subjects and How to Get Sharp Photos with Still Subjects. 

You'll get different results depending on all the above factors, but if you keep the above in mind you should manage this easily! Try it out - set your camera to aperture mode, set it at a low number, stand back from your subject and zoom in (if you are using a zoom) and try to make sure your subject is a good distance from the background, and see what happens! 

I've complied all of the tips above into an easy to download and print checklist. Simply click below to GET INSTANT ACCESS!