There are times when you want your entire photo to be in focus.

(f/20, ISO 200, 1/50 sec)

There are other times, however, that you want only a small portion of your photo to be in focus and the rest of it blurry.  You can always manipulate it after the fact in a photo editing program like Photoshop but it is much easier to shoot it the way you want it and then edit as you see fit.

The first way to make your background blurry is something I explained last fall in my post about aperture. For the purposes of this tutorial I will keep it nice and simple.

You want to use the lowest f/stop number that your lens allows.

I have a 50mm f/1.8 which is a must-have prime lens, in my humble opinion.  I am not going to use it for this post, as it will not work for the second point that I am about to make.  I am instead using my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.  The reason is that there is one more thing you need to do in order to blur your background even more.

You need to step back and zoom in.

Here is a shot of a flower in our garden using those two tips.  I set the aperture to 2.8 and zoomed out so that I was at 24mm.

(f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/50 sec)

The background is nice and blurry, but we can blow it out even more.  I zoomed in to 70mm, took a few steps back and tried to compose it the same as the first shot.

(f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/60 sec)

The larger the zoom, the blurrier the background.

If you want to get really artsy you can throw a larger zoom lens on.  I used my 70-200mm lens and zoomed to 200mm for this shot of Hillary and Shawn.

(f/2.8, ISO 200, 1/800 sec)

I wanted to use a more current photo to demonstrate this again.  Here is my ridiculously cute daughter, wearing a ridiculously cute dress, holding a ridiculously pink flower.

As you can see, she took her job very seriously.

Once I told her what a great job she did helping Mommy, she was quite pleased with herself.

To sum it up you can do two things to make your background as blurry as possible.

1. Use your widest aperture setting (lowest number).

2. Use as much zoom as you have and step back to frame your shot.

Happy shooting!

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  1. ali September 12, 2008 6:23 am edit

    i know nothing about lenses.
    my nikon came with two…the 18-55mm and a 55-200mm – but these mean nothing to me. i need help…

  2. Kami September 12, 2008 8:14 am edit

    This is fantastic Angella! I didn’t know about the zooming thing…I really need to get a lens that zooms to 200mm, I still only have the one that came with it.


    BTW, if it wasn’t for your tutorials I would know nothing of depth of field, ISO, heck I wouldn’t even know that flashes are evil! I owe all I know to you my friend, thank you!

    Kami’s last blog post..10 for 10

  3. hills September 12, 2008 8:51 am edit

    Ha – I love how annoyed Emily looks. Like, “hurry up, mom! Take the picture already!!!”

    I also love how the tree in the background of the kissy photo looks like a ghost that’s about to eat us.

    Clearly I need more sleep.
    Have a nice weekend!!

    hills’s last blog post..ABC 123 Baby You And Me Girl – Part 5

  4. Kimber September 12, 2008 9:28 am edit

    Thank you so much for this.

    Kimber’s last blog post..Martinsville vs. Mooresville

  5. bethany actually September 12, 2008 10:33 am edit

    Good advice for those of us with SLRs, Angella!

    If you have a point-and-shoot, you can fake this blurry-background thing with some shots by using the macro setting. :-) As long as you’re within a couple of inches of what you want to focus on, you can fill the rest of the frame with what you want blurry. That is what I used to do before I had my Nikon D40, like with this shot.

    bethany actually’s last blog post..Marching to her own beat

  6. Mrs. Wilson September 12, 2008 1:47 pm edit


    Mrs. Wilson’s last blog post..Loner

  7. anji September 12, 2008 2:07 pm edit

    Any idea how you can do this with a digital camera? I bought this puppy:

    however, it drives me crazy ’cause I never get to really choose where and what is blurry… any idea how I can have more control? My camera doesn’t have a lense I can take off I think :(

    Sorry if you’ve covered this! Thanks :D

    anji’s last blog post..Almost done!

  8. Rhi September 12, 2008 2:42 pm edit

    I am starring this in reader for the day when I figure out what all these fancy words mean :)

    Rhi’s last blog post..Friday Bullets: I’ve! Had! Caffeine! Edition!

  9. angella September 12, 2008 3:40 pm edit

    anji – My camera is digital as well (Canon 40D)

    I just read the specs on your camera, which is a pumped-up version of the Powershot that I have. It looks as though you have manual controls (Which is awesome!), but yes, you cannot change the lens.

    If you read through the Foto Friday posts, you can get an idea of how to use the manual functions. Your camera *should* let you also manually pick whee you want to focus.

    In relation to this post, bethany actually’s comment above is bang-on :)

  10. Maria September 12, 2008 5:50 pm edit

    *starts saving for new camera*

    Maria’s last blog post..The Barometer of My Ever Increasing Filth

  11. Michele September 12, 2008 5:59 pm edit

    I was just talking about this with a friend the other day!!! I have signed up for an online photography course starting Monday. I look forward to learning the basics and then I’ll be able to go through Foto Fridays and try all the different things! (See, I call them “things”…Maybe I need Digital Photography for Dummies!!!) Love the photos, especially the ones of Emily!

  12. Heather September 13, 2008 8:13 pm edit

    as always, love the foto fridays!

    Heather’s last blog post..French Lick sounds kinda dirty

  13. Anna September 13, 2008 8:34 pm edit

    I love the flower photo and always wondered how you got the background so blurry sometimes. I think I need to upgrade my camera!
    I love foto fridays btw (re the tweet;-))

    Anna’s last blog post..Polka dots and a mini with a twist

  14. San Antonio Lawyer September 14, 2008 7:22 am edit

    Thanks for sharing us these techniques :O) I love the pictures!

    San Antonio Lawyer’s last blog post..Get Assistance From Lawyers That Care NOW!

  15. The Over-Thinker September 14, 2008 8:06 pm edit

    YAYAYAYAY!!! I’m so glad you’re still doing these. I need to print them all out and make myself an “Angella Manual.”

    The Over-Thinker’s last blog post..Wii are in Hell. Out of Shape, Hell.

  16. Mrs. O October 30, 2011 1:28 pm edit

    I love that I came across this post! Just wanted to let you know that even 3 years later, it helped someone! :) I currently have a bridge camera so I find a lot of restrictions when it comes to aperature and “things.” lol I hope to one day upgrade to something a little better.

    Thanks for the great post!

  17. mae December 12, 2011 1:56 am edit

    I love your photography and tips! May I ask what camera you are using?? :))

  18. Lisa September 5, 2012 8:14 pm edit

    I did a google search” how to take pictures with a blurry background” and you website was at the top. I was most surprised to see your picture of Giants Head. I grew up in Summerland and most of my family still live there, so it was nice to be reminded of home.

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