How to get that cool blurry background photo


How To

high school senior girl laying in grass with fall leaves blurry in the background
a moment frozen in time

One question that I get asked the most is how to get that cool blurry background photo? If you are a budding photographer and are going to use an actual camera to get this type of photo, here are some quick tips and tricks on how to get that cool blurry background photo.

1st things first: Every camera is NOT created equal and most models have different buttons

misc cameras of different makes and models
Different makes and models of cameras

If you do not know what the buttons and dials on your camera are for than you need to find the manual to answer these next questions. Look to see if you are able to use your camera in manual settings. If so, find out which button puts your camera on manual, which button or dial makes your Aperture (also referred to as F Stop) number move and which button or dial makes your Shutter Speed move.

“A” Setting – Aperture/ F Stop

“How wide the shutter is opening”

aperture settings image
Aperture settings

Remember this phrase… β€œthe smaller the number, the bigger the opening.” Depending on your lens, is depending on how large of an opening you can have. Most standard lenses start at 3.5-5.6. This means you cannot get the opening any larger than 3.5 with this lens.

The larger the opening, the more ‘depth of field‘ you have.’ Depth of field’ means… cool blurry background and foreground. So if you have a low number (bigger opening), your camera will only be totally focused on wherever your point of focus is (that little dot in the center of your screen that tells your camera where to focus) and everything else will be out of focus – blurry.

Aperture Examples…

storyteller aperture example
“Storyteller Aperture”
Aperture range 14, 18, 22
See it ALL clearly
whatever aperture setting
Whatever Aperture
Range 8, 9, 11
Still most things behind and in front are in focus
Isolation aperture setting
“Isolation Aperture”
2.8, 3.5, 5.6
Take into consideration how far back your background is behind your subject.
If your subject is closer to the background, you will want a very low number. If they are further away from the background, you could have it set more to 3.5 or 5.6.

Well then what does the shutter speed do?

We are not going to get into shutter speeds in this blog post. However I want you to know that the shutter speed is HOW FAST the shutter opens and closes. We will talk about shutter speeds in a later blog post. πŸ˜‰

J and D Studio Mommy and Me photoshoot. Harrisburg, PA
Having the background blurry makes the image look ‘frozen in time’

So now a quick way how to get that blurry background photo…

Let’s choose a quick way to start using what you just learned about aperture. Look in your manual to see where you can set your camera to “Aperture priority mode.” This means that YOU CHOOSE your aperture and your camera will compensate and choose the shutter speed. Thus, still getting a properly exposed image.

aperture priority dial setting
Aperture dial on some camera models

After you get comfortable using the aperture priority mode, than you can start experimenting using the manual mode which is normally marked as an “M.” Then you can choose the shutter and the aperture.

Tips and Tricks….

If you want to see a really big difference, use a zoom lens on your camera and set it to it’s lowest number aperture (F-Stop), stand back from your subject and zoom in on them. OR, purchase a 1.8 or 2.8 fixed lens. Fixed means it will not zoom at all. You are the zoom with a fixed lens. It is the most inexpensive way to get that ‘cool blurry effect’ without having to purchase the really expensive lenses that have multiple zoom options and low F-Stops.

nikon fixed lens 50mm 1.8 from
This is a Nikon fixed 50mm lens. I got one just like this when I started playing around with my aperture but couldn’t afford the $$$$ lenses. You will LOVE this lens! It goes to 1.8! I get most of my equipment from:
Here is the link for this lens:

Now for some inspiration pictures!

J and D studio newborn family photo outdoor with flower hedge behind them blurry, Harrisburg, PA
Outdoor newborn photoshoot
J and D studio newborn baby feet photo with background of baby blurry, Studio Harrisburg, PA
Indoor/studio newborn photoshoot at f2.8
J and D studio bride and groom photo in the spring time at fawn hollow acres in Newmanstown, PA background blurry
To see more photos from this wedding click here
J and D studio cookie photo with background goodies blurry, Harrisburg, PA
MMmmmmmmm….. Chocolate chip cookie bites! Need I say more?!
J and D studio dad with two kids kissing him on either side photo, blurry background, Harrisburg, PA
Daddy’s little lovies
J and D studio newborn family photo in studio, Harrisburg, PA. Baby smiling in focus between Mom and Dad's back of heads that are blurry
And he just happened to smile!
J and D studio couple photo outdoor with blurry background Harrisburg, PA
“The Rock’s” twin and his beautiful wife

If photographing a big group…

J and D studio large family photo, outdoorHarrisburg, PA
Big group photoshoot

A word of warning… If you are photographing a big group, (or anything at more than one distance) you need to take into consideration the depth of the group. There will be distance in each row. You don’t want to have a wide aperture like 3.5 or only one row of your subjects will be in focus. With a group like this, the widest you want to go is f8.

Now to add some foreground blurry effects….

These were all taken with a wide aperture/f-stop. So set your camera at a low number.

J and D studio family photo, 4 kids and parents kissing in between them in a canola field with blurry canola in the foreground in Lykens, PA
Lean down and get behind some of the flowers and shoot past them. You may have to pull out a couple if the get in the way.
J and D studio bride and groom kissing behind blurry leaves against a stone barn photo, Gettysburg, PA
Get behind the leaves and find a spot to shoot through. It gives it that more romantic vibe.
J and D studio bride and groom outdoor photo in flowers with blurry background Kings Gap, Carlisle, PA
Have the subjects stand behind something such as flowers on a fence and then shoot at them from a distance.
J and D studio family photo of parents blurry in background kissing and kids holding their hands over their eyes in front, Harrisburg, PA
Have some fun with it!

Now you know how to get that cool blurry background photo!

Well, there yah have it! Now you know how to get that cool blurry background photo! I challenge you to set your camera to aperture priority setting and go out and practice what I just taught you. Please comment with any questions and I’ll try to answer them for you. I’d love for you to post some of your photos in the comment section below! Happy picture taking!

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