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10-26-2011, 11:32 AM   #1
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Blurring the background in portraits

Hi I'm Victoria,
I'm really new to all this I just brought a Pentax k-r and I have been taking some lovely shots but not as great as they could be.
How do you take a pic of someone and make the background blurred? I do it some times but I don't know how I've done it.

10-26-2011, 11:39 AM   #2
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I've updated your thread title so that you get more replies

Basically all you need to do is set your camera to Av mode and use a low aperture number, such as F1.4, F2, F2.8 or F3.5. It also helps to be physically closer to the subject when taking the photo.

If you only have the kit lens, you should consider a 50mm F1.4 or a 35mm F2.4 if for portrait/DOF shots.
Pentax 35mm DA L F2.4 AL Lens 21987 B&H Photo Video
Pentax Normal SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 Autofocus Lens 20817 B&H Photo

Also check out this article: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/photography-articles/62522-exposure-shutt...rture-iso.html

Adam
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10-26-2011, 11:50 AM   #3
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Welcome

QuoteOriginally posted by eye shots Quote
Hi I'm Victoria,
I'm really new to all this I just brought a Pentax k-r and I have been taking some lovely shots but not as great as they could be.
How do you take a pic of someone and make the background blurred? I do it some times but I don't know how I've done it.
I suggest reading up on the concept of "depth of field." The control for depth of field is the aperture setting. An aperture setting with a lower number (which is a wider opening) will allow for a blurrier foreground and background. This can result in what is referred to as a "shallow depth of field" because a thin plane is in focus, and the foreground and background are out of focus. The composition of the blurriness is called "bokeh." Bokeh can be influenced by the construction of the lens that you are using. There are compositions such as round bokeh or octagonal bokeh, to name a few.

If you are allowing the camera to set the aperture opening for you, then the blurriness that you desire will be hit or miss.

Last edited by lammie200; 10-26-2011 at 03:55 PM.
10-26-2011, 11:54 AM   #4
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Adam's got some great advice. I can offer one more.

Whatever lens or lenses you have pick one. Set it up in a fixed position, preferably with a tripod. Find a subject, typically outdoors is better, like a plant, chair, tree, or something reasonably close by (say within 5 feet or so). Shift your camera into Av mode and open the aperture to it's widest setting (something like f1.4, 2.8, 3.5 or so but make it the widest you can get with that lens). Have your ISO set to a low number like 100 or 200 (not important here but I'm covering all bases). Focus on your subject and turn off the auto focus, now take a series of images with out refocusing where you increase your f-stop one stop or so. So if you were at f2.8 then got to f3.5, f5.6, f8, f11, f13, f16, f22, until you are at the smallest aperture of the lens.

Review these images. You should see marked differences between the first and last image you shoot and some in between too. This is an exercise in depth of field and will show you how the choice of aperture will vary the background focus. Try this again with a subject much closer say within 1-3 feet.

10-26-2011, 11:57 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by blackcloudbrew Quote
Adam's got some great advice. I can offer one more.

Whatever lens or lenses you have pick one. Set it up in a fixed position, preferably with a tripod. Find a subject, typically outdoors is better, like a plant, chair, tree, or something reasonably close by (say within 5 feet or so). Shift your camera into Av mode and open the aperture to it's widest setting (something like f1.4, 2.8, 3.5 or so but make it the widest you can get with that lens). Have your ISO set to a low number like 100 or 200 (not important here but I'm covering all bases). Focus on your subject and turn off the auto focus, now take a series of images with out refocusing where you increase your f-stop one stop or so. So if you were at f2.8 then got to f3.5, f5.6, f8, f11, f13, f16, f22, until you are at the smallest aperture of the lens.

Review these images. You should see marked differences between the first and last image you shoot and some in between too. This is an exercise in depth of field and will show you how the choice of aperture will vary the background focus. Try this again with a subject much closer say within 1-3 feet.
These free online camera simulators will do almost the same thing.

The SimCam: Film and Digital Camera Simulator - Photonhead.com

Aperture, shutter and ISO value | SLR Camera Simulator

This one even has a couple of camera modes, aperture priority (Av) and shutter priority (Tv)

SLR Camera Simulator | Simulates a digital SLR camera


Tim
10-26-2011, 12:09 PM   #6
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All excellent advise, I would add to Adam's lens advice that a longer lens if you have room to step back will also be beneficial .

my favourite portrait lens right now is a super Takumar 55 f1.8 which on the current cameras is an excellent portrait length (and costs peanuts) Drawback is manual focus etc which for a new user may be more than they want to take on.

The 50 1.4 Adam recommended is close and has all the auto benefits

The da*55 prime is an excellent (albiet expensive) lens that is pretty close to a perfect portrait length and would be in my kit if I could afford it.

Pentax-DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM Reviews - DA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
10-26-2011, 12:37 PM   #7
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Ditto everything above. We use thin DOF (depth of field) to surgically isolate a subject from their surroundings. Too-thin DOF can be hazardous, as only a minuscule range of distance looks sharp. So with a portrait, we might get one eyeball sharp and everything else more-or-less OOF (out of focus).

Here are the basic rules for DOF:

* For THICKER DOF use a tighter aperture and/or a shorter focal length and/or greater lens-to-subject distance

* For THINNER DOF use a wider aperture and/or a longer focal length and/or closer lens-to-subject distance

Other ways to obliterate the background and surroundings include:

* Focus on a moving subject against a fixed background, or a fixed subject against a moving background. Portraits on a little spinning merry-go-round or in a moving vehicle achieve the latter.

* Increase the subject-to-background distance. Don't shoot portraits up against a wall unless the wall detail is important; better to move camera and subject as far from a background as possible.

* Keep the background dark. Use lighting to accentuate the subject and minimize what's behind them. Use flash tricks like Slow-Speed Sync and Trailing-Curtain Sync to blur the background.

* An old trick: Smear vaseline or nose-grease around the outer glass of a clear or UV filter. Center your subject; subject is sharp while the edges blur away. This can be achieved in PP editing too.

You might want to visit a local public library and read all you can about portrait photography. Even old material; some techniques change over time but many principles remain the same over the centuries. Have fun!

Last edited by RioRico; 10-26-2011 at 12:46 PM.
10-26-2011, 01:16 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote

* An old trick: Smear vaseline or nose-grease around the outer glass of a clear or UV filter. Center your subject; subject is sharp while the edges blur away. T!
One I used many times not having the cash in my youth for an 85 soft focus when they were hideously expensive - now of course people would complain they aren't sharp edge to edge

10-26-2011, 02:13 PM   #9
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I assume you have the kit lens 18-55mm that came with the camera, All that was said above is true but in addition you should be using the 55mm range of your lens, of if you have a longer lens or zoom use something in the 80 or longer range up to 135mm for people. It is much easier to blur the background using a longer telephoto lens you still need to have the lens almost wide open to the smallest number aperture.

Hans
10-26-2011, 02:30 PM   #10
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Thank u all so much. I think I might understand what u have all said. I have take two brilliant pics one of my little girl with a castle in the background and that was a bit blurred. Also one of my husband and the background of the boats are. Both pics are so good but I don't know how I did it. Will be out tomorrow putting into practice what u have all said. Thanks x
10-26-2011, 02:31 PM   #11
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Oops, I forgot to mention another trick. It just breezed through the holes in my head...

* Put +1 dioptre closeup adapter on your lens. A +0.5 dioptre would be even better, but those are rare and expensive, while a +1 dioptre is cheap as part of a +1+2+3 or +1+2+4 set. To use on your kit.lens, get a closeup set with 52mm threads. A +1 dpt adapter reduces your working distance to a range of about 50-100cm / 20-40in. A portrait shot from about 1m will have very thin DOF. A +0.5 dpt adapter should have a working distance of about 1.5-2m / 60-80in which may be more comfortable for many types of portraiture... but like I said, such are rare and costly.

If using the DA18-55 kit.lens for portraits where you want clear sharp details at the image edges, stay within the 24-50mm range. The lens' optics are worst at its extremes. And if detail away from the lens center is important, stop-down the aperture to f/8. But for moody portraits with center sharpness and faded edges (and blurred backgrounds), forget all that -- shoot zoomed-out with the aperture wide-open, and maybe with a +1 dioptre adapter, shooting at 1m.
10-27-2011, 07:11 AM   #12
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I'm not sure how well this one works, but I think someone here on PF also suggested the following as a way to get the background blurred:

Focus a bit in front of your subject, so that your subject is just at the back end of what is in focus. I haven't tried this myself. I imagine it would take a bit of experimentation to get the right focal point.
10-27-2011, 08:43 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by sameagle Quote
I'm not sure how well this one works, but I think someone here on PF also suggested the following as a way to get the background blurred:

Focus a bit in front of your subject, so that your subject is just at the back end of what is in focus. I haven't tried this myself. I imagine it would take a bit of experimentation to get the right focal point.
Depth of Field extends more behind the focus point than in front of it for subjects a reasonable distance away, so if you focus just in front you will get the subject in focus, and get a more out of focus background.

[thinks about setting his K-7 to front focus for this reason, as an experiment]
11-04-2011, 07:23 AM   #14
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Basically, zooming in and getting close in will blur your background. And maybe some of your foreground too.

To take control of DOF, turn the mode dial to Av (aperture value priority). The bigger the hole that the light comes through (the lower the aperture number) the narrower the zone of sharp focus will be. However, you must be careful not to take this to extremes - you don't want your portrait subject's eyes in focus while the tip of the nose is blurred. If you're using the kit lens, your maximum aperture will likely be 5.6 which is an OK value. A little bit of "wide-open" softness will do no harm here either.

Otherwise, rule of thumb for controlling DOF is:
Shorter focal length or further away from your subject -> the wider the zone of sharp focus
Longer focal length or closer to your subject -> the narrower the zone of sharp focus.

The DAL kit lens is actually OK for playing with DOF because you can focus very close up - 30cm or so. Close up with a focal length of 55mm, your DOF will only be a few cm, even at F5.6. Try it.

As for portraits, you want a decently long focal length taken from a moderate distance. The long length will give you the desired blur without you having to be right in your subject's face. I've been finding that 70mm (or even more) is a flattering length for your subject. The DAL 50-200mm is not a bad choice for experimenting with telephoto portraits since it doesn't cost an arm and a leg (unlike, say, the DA* 50-135 F2.8).
07-17-2014, 08:22 PM   #15
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I'm sorry, but i need to refloate this thread.
I have my k-r with a 50mm f/1.8 lense.
The issue is the lens operates only in manual focus.
Can i still take pictures with blurred background?
I tried with the AV dial but the F remains F--.
I hope you can help me.
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