Since I started running photography tips on my blog, one of the most common questions is "how can I get a blurry background in my pictures"?
To begin, if you have a DSLR, you might want to read up on aperture here and here. Knowing how to increase and decrease your aperture will help you create more blur (or reduce it) by changing your camera's focal length. This is one of the most important parts of getting an amazingly beautiful blurry background- because if you don't have it set right, the tips below won't help much.
If you don't have a DSLR, don't worry- the principles we talk about below will still help you get a blurry background.
To get lovely bokeh (blurred backgrounds), you need to be mindful of your focal length. In a super short and oversimplified nutshell, that means the length at which your subject is to the film.
If you set a length of a certain distance (using your aperture and focus point), everything in front of or behind that length won't be processes as effectively... meaning it will look blurry.
Film functions just like your eyes- hold your hand up in front of your face, and look at something about 20 feet away. When you focus on your hand, the background is totally blurry. When you focus on the background, your hand is a weird blob.
Now, move your hand and place it on a desk or a keyboard. The background AND your hand are totally in focus, right?
That is what we're going to do with our cameras- tell it where to focus. But it's really important to remember what we just did when setting aperture, etc- because the subject's relation to a background (or foreground) will impact bokeh significantly.
Sometimes, if it is too dark or too light, you are limited on aperture selection, and physically moving yourself or your subject to get an ideal background is the best way to go.
With a Point and Shoot, or iPhone camera, this is your best opportunity for creating stunning blurred backgrounds- get up and MOVE!
Ok, so now that you know how to change bokeh by changing the subject's relation to a background, let's go over a few other tips to maximize a blurry background:
On a point and shoot, choose the tulip (macro) icon.
On a DSLR, choose a low aperture (under 6), and use a macro or 50mm lens for the best blur.
To reduce blur:
On a point and shoot, choose the mountain (landscape) icon
On a DSLR, choose a higher aperture (over 12) and use a wide angle lens (under 30mm) or a macro/telephoto lens to zoom in on a faraway subject (and cut out background/foreground that would otherwise blur).
To make it super simple, I created a printable index card you can download free and keep in your camera bag, along with the other downloadable index cards I've created. To keep these downloads free, please direct friends to this site- don't print/scan/transfer this file. I work really hard on these, and stealing other people's work is pretty icky.
Download here: Download Create a Blurry (or clear) Background Card