photography101: delicious depth of field


Welcome back!

This week's topic was 100% the MOST requested topic thus far.  Depth of field…aperture…"BOKEH"!  "How do I make my pictures blurry in the background?"  Yep.  It's all the same thing.

For those of you with point-and-shoot cameras, this might be difficult - if not impossible - to achieve.  Many PAS cameras don't give you the option to choose aperture priority or set your desired aperture.  But, for those of you with the slightly upgraded PAS cameras, or those with DSLRs, the way you "make your pictures blurry in the background" is by adjusting your aperture setting.  Each camera is different, so the way you adjust your aperture will vary - just check your camera's manual to see how to change this setting!  (What?!  You threw out your manual!?  That's ok.  You can find camera manuals online here!)

To demonstrate how changing your aperture setting effects your images, I forced my dear friend to model for me in a lovely pink strapless dress on a freezing cold spring morning.  This is one of many dangers involved in being my friend.

aperture priority(aperture setting: f1.8)

aperture priority(aperture setting: f2.8)

aperture priority(aperture setting: f5.6)

aperture priority(aperture setting: f8)

aperture priority(aperture setting: f16)

So, you can see that as the numbers get bigger - from 1.8 to 16 - you're able to see more and more of the background in the image.  The more open your lens is (f1.8), the more light you're letting in and the softer the background will be.  The smaller the lens opening (f16), the less light you're letting in and the sharper the background will be.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm totally a visual person… So for those of you who are in the same boat as me, here's a chart showing what changing the aperture looks like for your lens:



How you choose to set your aperture is equal parts technical and personal aesthetic.  The latter usually comes with time.  Personally, I always always always shoot wide open.  I usually shoot between f1.2 and f1.8 for portraits because I love flooding my subjects in that beautiful, creamy light.  If I'm photographing a wedding and there are larger groups in front of me, I will close down to maybe f5.6 or 8…but I can honestly say that the last time I photographed anything beyond f8 was at least nine years ago.

For those of you who like shooting landscapes or cityscapes, you'll likely find that you prefer to shoot closer to f11 and f16 because so much more of the image will be sharp.

Now, go on!  Grab your cameras and soak up this tropical 55 degree weather that is spring in New England, and try adjusting your aperture until you find the look that works for you!

If you take the photography101 challenge, post your pictures in the comments!  Instagram and twitter users, post with the hashtag: #photography101 !  There just may be some giveaways in store for those of you who do your homework….. :)