Week 1: Blur My Background

** This blog post is informational only, for contest participation, you do not have to use manual focus by any means. Manual can be a bit daunting but the great thing about the digital age is that taking and getting rid of a bad picture doesn’t cost a thing, just look in the display and if you don’t like it, press delete! But until you try to play with manual, you won’t learn what great advantages it can offer. After you start, you’ll be amazed at the control you can get IN your camera and won’t have to do much in post-processing.

Blurring the background of a picture (or getting Bokeh if you want to be technical)) can reinforce your pictures main subject, drawing the viewers eye directly to the point. Blurring the background is basic aperture know-how. Traci wrote a great explanation of aperture last week. Take a look.

If you are using a SLR camera, take it off auto.

Sony DSLR Basics ( I use a Sony a200 DSLR)


Take your camera OFF of these settings.

They are all automatic settings.




Professional – Still pretty automated, not good when you want to control aperture. Use this when you want the camera to control aperture but keep specific settings for ISO, etc.

 Aperture Priority – USE this setting for Blurred Backgrounds. (more on this below)

 Shutter Speed Priority – When your subject is moving, this is a great setting.  Use a high shutter speed to stop fast moving objects or use a slow shutter speed to trace motion blur (Week 6 of the Challenge)

 Manual Exposure – This setting will allow you to choose what your picture will look like, you set the aperture and shutter speed. (Also great for blurred backgrounds)

I have a kit lens, meaning the one that came with my camera when I first bought it. Now thanks to my love, I have a zoom lens as well…besides the point. The kit lens can make it harder to get blur because the aperture does not get as wide open as with other lenses (low aperture, meaning under f/4.0). There are some steps you can take to help the blur though without relying on photo editing software to give you the effect.



  1. Lower your aperture as much as possible
  2. Put as much distance between the subject and the background. That will automatically help blur the unfocused part of the picture.
  3. Likewise, you will want to be somewhat close to your subject. BUT first zoom all the way in, then move closer to your subject to frame them.

Here’s a very basic example, took this really quick while the boy was entertained. So…sorry about the boringness of the picture content.

f/5.6; 35mm

See how in the above picture is basically all in focus? Well, take a few steps back, zoom all the way out, lower your aperture all the way and then walk in as close as you can to your subject, then you will get some blur in the background like below.

f/5.6; 70mm

Play with it and see what happens. So much easier than post processing!! Good luck and have fun 🙂



One thought on “Week 1: Blur My Background

  1. LOVE this! thanks so much for sharing. I love to see the “behind the scenes” of photography and things. Sharing this with my photography friends.
    I’ve done this on accident taking a photo of a spider in its web with just a simple Kodak digital camera! lol

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