How do I create a blurred background?
So let’s start by giving the illusive blurry background a name. It’s called Bokeh, and it originated in Japan. It means haze or blur. So from now on every time you hear a photographer mention bokeh, you know they are talking about the blurry background.
Now before I get into which pieces of equipment work best, there is a way to get bokeh with your 18-55mm starter kit lens. I’ll explain that to you later.
It’s possible to get bokeh with all camera bodies, whether it’s a DSLR, Mirrorless, or Medium Format. The main factor is the image sensor size, the larger the sensor the easier it is to create bokeh. Full-frame sensors are better than crop sensors, and Medium Format sensors, which are bigger than full-frame sensors are the best.
But, and it’s a big but, you can produce bokeh with them all. So don’t think you have to spend $5,000 to get bokeh in your photos. Your camera body is perfect.
The easiest way to get bokeh in an image is to use a low f/ number. An aperture of f/2.8 will easily give you a bokeh. If you have a 50mm f/1.8 lens and set the aperture to f/1.8 you will have no problem getting a bokeh.
When you are using wide apertures (low f/ numbers) you will create a shallow depth of field, so you need to choose an aperture that allows you to get the subject in focus before the bokeh (blurring) starts. To fully understand which aperture you should use you need to understand the depth of field.
There is a phone app that will help you work out what the depth of field will be for your equipment and settings. You can download the app, which is called PhotoPills, or you can also visit their website at photopills.com.
Longer focal length lenses compress scenes and make it look like the background is closer. When the background is blurred it gives a very cool effect. This is the reason most portrait photographers use longer focal length lenses, like 85mm, 135mm, and 200mm.
If you want to learn more about lenses, listen to episode 3 of the podcast – “Lenses”
Which is the best mode to shoot in?
If you are just starting out, and Manual mode is a bit daunting, try Aperture Priority mode. It is very easy to use and you’ll be able to get professional results, listen to episodes 13 & 20 of the podcast for more info.
Can I create Bokeh with my 18-55 kit lens?
Yes, you can. There is another way of creating bokeh and that is separating your subject from the background.
If you set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture to f/5.6. Next, position your subject closer to the camera than the background. The further the subject is from the background the better the bokeh will be.
Using this technique, you can get bokeh with any aperture, even f/16.
The best way to produce bokeh is by using lenses that have wide apertures, low f/ numbers like f/2.8, and f/1.8. If you add separating the subject from the background method the bokeh will be even better. This is something you need to do and keep practicing. Being able to produce a nice bokeh will transform your photography.