Achieving an out of focus background always makes your photos pop but it can be difficult to make happen in certain situations. Shooting outdoors or with a phone can be especially challenging to achieve the look you want. So here’s are my rules for getting that shallow depth of field we all love.
Distance between the camera, your subject and the background.
The distance between your camera, your subject and your background all play an important part in achieving the out of focus look. The closer your subject is to the background the more in focus your subject and background will be. To help blur the background pull your subject away from the background and closer to the camera. The greater the distance the more out of focus your background will be.
Aperture size or F stop is a measurement of how much light your lens is allowing into the camera. The bigger the number, like F22, means less light and more of your image is in focus. The smaller the number, like F4, means more light and less of your image is in focus.
There are a lot of technical reasons for all of this that I’ll cover in another article but, the general rule is keep your F stop number small if you want a shallow depth of field.
An easy way to do this is use Aperture Priority mode on your camera and set your aperture to something like F2.8 or F4. If your camera doesn’t have Aperture Priority mode you can shoot indoors where there is less light and your camera should adjust by opening the aperture automatically.
Sensor size is another way to achieve the look, but it’s not something easily changed. Full frame cameras have larger image sensors than crop frame camera and as a result full frame cameras allow for shallower depth of field.
If you don’t have a full frame camera like a Canon 5D or Sony A7, don’t worry. It’s simply easier to achieve the shallow depth of field look with a full frame camera but crop sensor cameras can achieve the same look through technique.
And focal length.
Focal length is an easy way to blur the background. If you simply zoom in and back away from your subject you can achieve the effect. Wide angle lenses tend to keep everything in focus where telephoto lenses will isolate a subject from the background given enough distance between the two.
And that’s it. You might only need to use 1 or 2 of these techniques in order to achieve the look you’re going for, but the most important thing is to keep practicing.