This week, we are going back to the basics. One of the most asked questions in photography is “How can I get a blurry background in my pictures?” I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve been asked that! The blurry background that everyone tries to get has to do with the aperture setting on your camera. In some cases, the quality of your camera and lens will affect your ability to get good bokeh (that blurry background). But there are many ways to produce this look.

So what exactly is aperture and how do I get that blurry background?

What is Aperture?


Week 28: July 6-12

Aperture is one of the three main controls you can use when you are taking a picture. Along with shutter speed and ISO, aperture controls how light will hit the sensor. Aperture is the size of the hole that the light will pass through in your lens.

The size of the hole is measured in f/ stops. The larger the f/ stop, the smaller the hole. I know, confusing, right? For example, an f/ stop 20 would be used when you have a great light source. An f/ stop of 1.8 would mean you are shooting wide open.

Now back to that blurry background!

Aperture and Depth of Field


Aperture not only controls the amount of light that passes through your lens, it also controls your Depth of Field {or DOF}. Depth of Field is the area where the subject(s) in your image will be in focus. Manipulating your aperture is the easiest and most often utilized means to adjust Depth of Field.

A large depth of field means that most of your photo will be in focus whether it’s close to your camera or far away. To achieve a large depth of field, you will want to use a small aperture. An f/stop of 11 or higher are great for landscape photography! This will keep most {if not all} of your landscape in focus. If you are photographing details or macro photography, you will want to use a small depth of field. This will help highlight your subject and create a great background.

One thing to keep in mind! When doing portrait work, especially with more than one subject, you will want to use an aperture equal to the number of people in your photo. This will ensure that everyone in your photo will be in focus. If you use a smaller number and your subjects are not standing on the same plane, there is a chance that someone will be out of focus!

Aperture and Bokeh


Ah, bokeh! That blurry, creamy background that everyone strives to achieve! Bokeh simply means blur. It is the quality of the areas in your photo that are not in focus. Keep in mind that the bigger the aperture, the smoother your bokeh will be.

To get the best bokeh in your photos, you want to make sure there is some distance between your subject and the background. For example, if you are photographing a flower and there is a leaf behind it, you may get a nice, creamy green background but the bokeh won’t be strong. If you change up your angle and put some distance between the flower and the background, you will achieve more blur in your background.


Your challenge this week is to play with your aperture. If you are comfortable shooting in Manual, try out different f/ stops to see how it affects your photo. If you are still getting used to Manual mode, try shooting in Aperture Priority. This way, you will only have to focus on your aperture. If you are using a Point and Shoot, set your camera to the “Flower” setting. This will help you achieve great bokeh and depth of field in your photos.

Make sure you share your photos on Facebook!


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