Miraz Light At Work Photography

Background Blur

When I first started out, I was always attracted to pictures which had blurred or bokehed backgrounds. Of course, at that time, I didn't know what a bokeh was. A bokeh is basically what the photography world calls the blobs of light that are out of focus. Ever seen a bokeh of colored blobs in a Christmas Ad? A bokeh's shape usually looks round but upon zooming close, you will see, in many cases it is not round. It takes on the shape of the lens' aperture. i.e. depending on the aperture blades in the lens and the shape they take, the bokeh gets its shape. The bokeh also depends on what your background has. If it has a lot of variations in color and contrast, the bokeh might not be very smooth and creamy.

I took the following picture today.

Now you must think it would take a top of the line pro lens to get this creamy background right? Wrong ! I took it with the lens I had bought over 4 years ago with my D40. It doesn't have any of the VR stabilization stuff you would see that today's lenses have and its not even one of those elite "prime" lenses. Its simply a zoom lens. A 55-200 mm lens which is not that big of a deal in terms of lenses today. From the picture, it looks as though Ms Munchkin is standing in front of a studio background. In reality, there was actually a parking lot behind that fence.

So, the trick to get this blurry background, is to have a lens which has a wide aperture. A wide aperture equals a low f-stop. A low f-stop means that your plane of focus (also called DOF or Depth of Field) is very narrow which in turn means everything else other than whats in the plane of focus, will be blurred out. In my case today, I used my zoom lens and lowered the f-stop to as low as the lighting conditions would allow. We're in the middle of winter and today was one of those days when it wasn't biting cold. The weather was in mid 40s and I figured I'd have about 10 minutes of shooting with Ms Munchkin before her fingers and face started getting cold. She did have on 3 layers of clothing - I love layers ! I made her stand about a foot from the fence you see in the background and took the shot.

Once I had it opened in PSE, I brightened it up by using this method. I then used a skin action from MCP's Bag Of Tricks called Magic Powder to even up her skin tone since in reality she doesn't have blotchy skin inspite of what the picture might say. Finally, I used an overlay that gave it a "canvasy" feel. There are several free overlays available on Flickr. I have personally used, and like the ones by  Pareeerica.  As I've said before - you really don't need a top of the line lens or a top of the line camera to take great pictures.

The frame is one of the latest awesome creations by Isabella Lafrance. and can be downloaded for free from her blog.


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