How to get soft focus backgrounds


…. or put simply blurry / soft focus behind your subject. This is a very desirable effect for the following reasons:

  • Makes your subject stand out from the background.
  • Introduces depth into your image.
  • It’s aesthetically pleasing, especially if you can achieve some “bokeh” too.

Bokeh is the term used to describe the blurry circular shapes where light hits things in the background. The image with the reeds has bokeh where the sunshine is sparkling on the water.

You can get blurry foregrounds too if you’re using a very narrow depth of field. See the top image with the heart shaped buttons. the foreground and background are blurred and just a tiny slice through the middle is in focus. I used f/1.8 to achieve this.

APERTURE is what controls depth of field. For blurry soft focus backgrounds you need a large aperture (low f/number e.g. f/1.8 to f/5.6). Here’s a blog post on how to get going with Aperture Priority mode

If you are shooting in AUTO modes you can make the background blur by:

  • Zooming in – the more you zoom, the more the background blurs.
  • Shooting very close up. The closer you are the more the background blurs.

If you like taking photos with shallow depth of field take a look at the so called Nifty Fifty lens: 50mm f/1.8 lens. Relatively inexpensive and great for creative photos.

Blurred backgrounds can be hard with camera phones. Shoot very close to your subject. Or see if your phone has a feature which artificially blurs the background. This can look good if used well.


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