Yeah, the jock you blurred into oblivion with your camera when you took the photo won't come back to bite you, so she won't go, "Wow! Look at him!". You don't want that. Here are some secrets are known to help make the front 'pop out'. First up, the need for blurring backgrounds.
You need a blurred background,
- If you need to get rid of something unsightly that might reduce the photo value.
- If you need the foreground really stark in comparison.
- If you're taking a macro (close up) of an object.
- If you are into Bokeh.
If you're a novice, the one thing you need to do is to experiment. The mind-bender in usual cases is that you always got a blur when you want a still and a still when you really need a blur. Yeah, that can happen.
Play with your camera until you figure out all that it can do. Maybe you'll even come up with some new, cool way to take a picture! For now, let's concentrate on how to get a blurred background, the right way.
Blurred Backgrounds and How to Get Them
If you want to accept the challenge to get the perfect blur, however, you need to use your camera right.
Choosing Your Center of Focus
Backgrounds blur according to how the center object holds itself according to the background and how you hold the camera to the object. You're basically giving the object more attention than the rest of the things. It's a good practice to focus on the eyes when you take a portrait.
This way whenever someone sees the photo, they see the eyes first. In the dog's picture, the focus on the eyes blurs out even his nose a little bit. Another way to focus on the object is to pan with the object as it moves, like a runner or a car.
This is a tough method and takes a little practice, but you end up getting a dynamic picture with a blurred background, accentuating the object's movement.
An easy way to get a simple blur would be to get a camera that has the Portrait Mode (colorful leaf on a branch), a special mode that automatically prompts the camera to give more focus on the subject. It won't be as good as a blur on macro mode (like the dice on the right), but get your distances right and the background will go into a partial blur.
Other things you'll need are a manual flash selection and a good optical zoom rather than a bad digital zoom. If you own a simple digital camera or are trying to get a blurred background on a cell phone camera, the Macro Mode would be the best option for you.
So, to get a blurred background, you need a lens that can give you a greater or wider aperture. Get a camera with a maximum aperture of something around F/1.8 or more. This is where your experimentation really matters. Switch to the A Mode on your camera and try getting the same image with various aperture settings.
Another thing to remember is if you change the lens aperture settings, you also change the shutter speed. Most cameras today do this automatically. If you want to, you can play with this too. Just be careful to not get too much exposure with a slow shutter speed.
The other thing you need your lens to have is a long enough focal length. You can get a better blur in the background if you zoom in on the center object, and the more you zoom in, the more the background gets blurred. For a good zoom in, you'll need a lens with a high natural focal length, say around 50 mm.
If the camera is closer to the object, the multiple objects in the background tend to cluster together and eventually blur. This may also give the center object a blurred outline.
Another thing to be kept in mind is the background lighting and it's distance to the subject. For example, the sunlight bouncing off the girl's hair adds to the entire blurred background, while creating a bit of a contrast effect, with the sunlight to her left and the greenery to her right.
Naturally Blurred Backgrounds
They are nothing but light dispersion created using fog or glass. The most common way to get this is the clear glass in a house or on a car. The child (right) looks on into what's not necessarily a blur to him, but the mist settling on the glass blurs the trees outside for us.
Rain falling on the windows of a car (left) gives a paintbrush type of background, each stroke distorting the light that enters the glass. Again, it's great to experiment when you're learning something, try to get a shot in macro with the subject in front of a naturally blurred background. It will add to the blurred effect.
'Bokeh' means 'blur' in Japanese. If you're not Japanese, Bokeh means 'artistic blurs'. It's basically the art of creating a blur. You can get a pattern in the blur, you can superimpose the blur to the foreground. The main thing about Bokeh is the fading of the main object into the background. The other main thing is the lighting in the background.
More often than not, you'll have shapes of smaller individual lights in the backgrounds. These shapes can also be manipulated according to your wish, you can use crosses, hearts, polygons or plain circles. To get them, you'll have to get lens kits like the Lensbaby aperture kit.
Whatever your style, you should by now have a good idea of how to get the right kind of blur that you want in your background. In the end, the camera can be only as good as the photographer. And if all else fails, stand still, aim your camera, hope for a still and get a blur!