Beautiful Blurred Backgrounds!

Messy backgrounds bug me!!
There, I’ve said it – blunt and to the point.

I see some amazing photos through our students but there’s nothing like an eye-catching background to make a good photo plummet from excellence.

In this month’s Exposed! photo newsletter we look at the beauty of a blurred background to save your photo from crashing!

Benefits of Blur 

Focus blur is a wonderful tool to reduce background clutter (and make Harry smile!) By blurring the background you can reduce competing, eye-catching elements that pull the attention from the primary focal point.


Blur, Technically Speaking 

Understanding blur is harder!
And creating the right blur in the right places can be hardest to master.

Depth of Field Tip

Depth of Field – All in Focus – All competing for attention!

Focus blur is one powerful creative tool that helps with messy backgrounds. And focus blur is a function of a few elements:

1. Aperture – The round opening that lets light through your lens has a lot of power in the background. Big aperture (small number like f1.8, f2.8, f4) helps blur the background.

2. Strength of Lens – The stronger the lens (strong lens = big numbers like 200mm, 300mm) the more oomph there is to blur the background.

3. Proximity to Subject – The closer you are to your subject the greater the chance to blow out the distracting background.

Each element on its own may not be strong enough to keep attention on your foreground by obscuring the background. But combine the strength of two or three elements of focus-blur power and  you’ll keep your viewer engaged on your main subject.

Depth of Field Photo Tip

Depth of Field Photo – Blurred background creates a clear focal point!

I get a bug in my brain about backgrounds! Nothing distracts a focal point like a background screaming “HEY!!! LOOK AT ME!

So, in my work I work HARD to create simple, clean backgrounds by moving myself and the camera to line up the subject to find clean spaces. That often means I end up on the floor or on a ladder like I was for the portrait below.

Depth of Field photo tip

Clean portrait – blur the background!!

If there are no other options I will use the ideas of focus blur to quiet the attention-seeking background.

The portrait of Tessum Weber, Arctic explorer and Guinness record holder, shot for an editorial client last year, shows a relatively clean photo but I still blurred the rocks behind Tessum so there was NO DOUBT where the viewer was supposed to look.  Blurring the background elements makes this a stronger photo!

Experiment with blurring your backgrounds:
• Big lens
• Big aperture (f1.8, f2.8, f4)
• Closer!!!

Final Frame
Save your photo from crashing – make it soar with some blur in the background.
Take photos!
Have fun!