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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Control Background Blur with Aperture - Love Your Camera: Weekly Photography Tips

This week's Love Your Camera photography tip is about controlling the blur of your background by setting your aperture [or f/stop].

To read an in depth tutorial I have written about aperture, click here. Aperture is what controls the depth of field in your photo, which affects the amount of blur that the background of your photo has. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out that in depth aperture tutorial and then come back and read this post.

Sometimes people want to have everything in their photo in focus. Other times, people want only their subject, the main focal point of their photo in focus, while all the rest of the photo is blurred/out of focus. Sometimes it is a matter of personal opinion, and other times, it's dependent on your subject matter. As a general rule of thumb, landscape photographers want more of their photos in focus [to see the entire mountains/trees/stream in the frame] while portrait photographers usually like the person in their photo to be in focus while the background is nice and blurry, giving more attention to the subject and minimizing the background.

The higher your f/stop number, the less blur you will have in your photos. It has to do with the depth of field in your photos, which again, is covered in that in depth tutorial I wrote and linked to above.

For today's tip, I want to show the difference that the f/stop can make on your background. The higher your aperture number, the less blur you will have in your background.

A photo taken at f/16 will have a minimally blurry background, while a photo taken at f/1.4 will have such a blurred background, you won't be able to tell what was in it. It'll just be a mass of soft shapes and color.

f/16 LKR_6129 f/11 LKR_6128 f/8 LKR_6127 f/5.6 LKR_6126 f/1.4 LKR_6123
Why is this important? It is important because it greatly affects the appearance of your photos, and creates very different looks by which aperture setting you choose. Also, if you are taking photos in a place that has a busy/cluttered background and maybe you don't particularly want people to know you are taking photos in an alley with some garbage bins scattered around. So what can you do, besides moving to a new location or moving the bins? You can use a lower f/stop which will give you a more blurry background. You will be able to see less of the background and the distractions will matter less! Sweet!

I love to use a low f/stop number, which gives me a shallow depth of field and a nice blurry background. This allows me to keep the background from overpowering or distracting from my subjects. Plus, it fits my personal taste and the overall emotional and classic field of my photography.
Lauralyn1Yr_0044 Koby6Mo_0003 Mayers_0003-2
I should also note that the lowest aperture you can go to is dependent on your lenses. If you have a beginner DSLR, it's highly probable that you can only go as low as f/3.5 or f/5.6. If you have a higher end, more professional lens, you might be able to get down as low as f/1.4.

If you want to know more about aperture and how it controls your photos, you might like my Love Your Camera photography workshop. The next workshop will be held sometime this spring, and is for anyone who has a DSLR and wants to learn how to use it better. If you are interested in being on the mailing list for future workshops, email me at lauraradniecki@gmail.com and I'll get you added!


  1. Excellent tips. Thank you. I've taken a couple classes on photography, but still have questions. Please, add me to your email list for classes. You have my email. Thanks!

  2. This is exactly what I need... I am going to spend some time going through your tutorials! I think the most difficult part of blogging is the photographs; in fact, I have several posts still as drafts because I am camera shy.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Thanks, ladies! I'm glad you found this helpful. If you take some photos that use this information, I'd love to see them! Email them to me at lauraradniecki@gmail.com!

    Mary, you are added to the email list for future workshops! xx!


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