You don’t need to be a professional to create background blur in your photography. It just comes down to some basic camera settings and understanding how aperture plays a role in the photos you take.

In this article, you’ll discover the best ways to create background blur to your photos, even as a total beginner. I’ll break down the best camera settings, how aperture works, and some extra tips to enhance the background blur in your photography!

Before we get started, make sure to grab my free Manual Mode Cheat Sheet to help remember all the best aperture settings for blurry backgrounds! You can get the cheat sheet by clicking here.

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Why Should You Add Blurry Backgrounds In Your Photos

© Brendan Williams, All Rights Reserved - http://www.bwillcreative.com

Background blur is an essential tool to help make your subject stand out from your photo. If you’re taking a picture of a person, they’ll stand out far more against a blurred background compared to one that’s nearly in focus.

Background blur is an easy way to isolate your subject and tell your audience exactly where to look (aka what’s in focus!). There’s no easier method to make your subject stand out of your photos, and background blur always helps to make your images look more professional.

What Causes Background Blur In Photos?

aperture in photography to effect depth of field and exposure in photography

The primary reason there is background blur in a photo is because of the size of your aperture. The aperture is a little ring-shaped piece inside of your lens that affects your exposure and a little something called depth of field. 

Depth Of Field is just a fancy photography term to describe how much is in focus at once. With a larger depth of field, more of your image will be in focus. With a smaller depth of field, less of your photo will be in focus. The depth of field is directly affected by the aperture setting you are using. You can learn more about depth of field and how it works in this post.

F-Stops & Depth Of Field

Aperture settings are measured in F-stops. Another common photography term that is simply telling you how small or wide your aperture is. Depending on the F-stop you’re using, you’ll know how much depth of field you have.

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An easy and non-technical way to remember if you have a shallow depth of field or large depth of field is to look at the F-stop number. If the F-number is low, that means you have a wide aperture. With wide apertures, there is a shallow depth of field, meaning less is in focus.

Some great F-stops to start with are F/2.8 or F/5.6. These apertures have a shallow depth of field and will give the most background blur in your photos.

If the F-number is higher, that means you have a smaller aperture. With a smaller aperture, there is a greater depth of field, meaning more is in focus at once. This isn’t as good for creating background blur.

For example, some less ideal apertures to create background blur are F/11 or F/16. Each of these are smaller apertures with a large depth of field.

Just remember: 

The lower the F-stop number, the more background blur you’re going to get.

The Best Camera Modes For Background Blur

camera modes for beginners to blur the background in their photography

There are a couple of great shooting modes on your camera that you can use to make capturing background blur in photography, easy. Each mode will have its unique advantages to you, depending on your familiarity with other camera settings like shutter speed or ISO.

1. Aperture Priority Mode (Av)

Aperture priority is the perfect option for you if you’re not super comfortable with all the camera settings quite yet. In aperture priority, you’re in charge of your aperture setting, but your camera will decide the rest. This makes it really easy to set a wide aperture like F/2.8 and not have to worry about adjusting additional settings for a perfect exposure. It’s like automatic mode, with a little more customization for background blur!

2. Manual Mode (M)

Manual mode is a little bit more advanced than Av mode since you’re now in charge of all your camera settings. In manual mode, you can set a custom aperture, but you’ll also be required to choose your ISO and shutter speed settings to match. You do get a creative advantage by choosing every setting yourself, but it can be a more overwhelming or slower process if you’re new.

Either of these two camera modes will work great for creating background blur in your photography, it will just depend on your confidence. Regardless of the mode you choose, background blur still comes down to the size of your aperture. 

You can learn more about some excellent beginner camera settings to help you break out of automatic mode by clicking here.

Additional Ways To Affect Background Blur In Photography

The primary key to background blur is aperture; however, there are some other ways that you can affect the amount of background blur in your photography.

Longer Focal Length (More Zoomed In)

An easy way to add more background blur is to shoot with a longer focal length. As you zoom in more to your subject, the field of view is narrowed and gives an appearance of more blur behind your subject. Notice how the background blur changes significantly between a wide lens and a zoom lens.

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Bring Your Subject Away From The Background

By creating more space between your subject and the background, you can create more background blur in a photo. Since there is more distance behind your subject, the background falls more and more out of focus. This is an easy method to maintain your framing while increasing the background blur.

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Go Closer To Your Subject

The closer you get to your subject, the more out of focus your background will appear. Since you are using a closer focus distance to your subject, there is a more significant difference between the subjects and backgrounds focus distance.

A quick way to visualize how this works is to turn your lens to manual focus and slowly shift your image out of focus. Notice how the blur drastically increases as you get more and more out of focus.

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So What Now?

Now you’ve discovered that the size of your aperture plays a crucial roll in creating background blur, but it’s not the only way. Although aperture is a key player, it’s important not to underestimate the powers of focal length or bringing your subject away from the background.

To get the best background blur in your photography, you should be using each of these tools in conjunction. Just because you’re using a wide aperture, doesn’t mean you’re going to have an incredibly blurred background. The amount of blur is going to rely heavily on the focal length you’re using. Below are some examples of how the same aperture looks across multiple focal lengths:

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Notice how the background blur is significantly less impactful at 17mm compared to at 200mm. The lens you choose is crucial to getting the most background blur possible in your photography.

Now I encourage you to go out and experiment with different apertures and focal lengths to see what creates the best results for you. I personally love shooting with wider apertures at a focal length between 50-70mm. At this focal length, there is adequate background blur, but it doesn’t make the entire background unrecognizable. Ultimately it comes down to personal tastes and the style you’re going for.

Conclusion

So that’s how you can add background blur in your photography, even if you’re a complete beginner! Utilizing background blur is an incredible way to make your subject stand out and tell your viewers exactly where you want them to look. Not only that, but it makes your photos look a lot more professional!

Background blur is best used for photos that have a single subject and point of interest. It looks excellent in portraiture or macro photography but doesn’t always look as great with landscapes. Try to think of background blur as a creative tool in your photography rather than a ‘must-have’ in every photo you take.

If you enjoyed this article or know someone who could use a little extra background blur in their photography, make sure to share this post with them! If you want to stay up to date with more weekly photography articles like this one, click here to subscribe to my newsletter!

What’s your favorite way to add more background blur in your photography? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Snapping,

-Brendan 🙂