I'm Krystal Moore, a wedding and lifestyles photographer based in Moose Jaw, SK.
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May 19, 2021
Do you ever scroll through Instagram and wonder how photographers achieve such DREAMY blurry backgrounds in their images? I love this look because it’s beautiful and helps your client pop against the background!
This blurriness actually has a name called BOKEH! (pronounced bow-kuh)
Now, you’re probably wondering, “how in the world do you can get blury background in your images” — and the secret is all in your aperture settings!
Okay … we’re about to get a little technical, so if you have questions, send them my way and I can help ya out!
The aperture settings on your camera affect the depth of field in your image. Basically what this means is how much of your image is in focus. The LOWER your aperture (between 1.2 – 4.0) the blurrier the background. The wider your lens is open – the more light your lens lets in. The HIGHER your aperture the MORE of your image is in focus (4.0 and up!) The smaller your lens is open – the less light your lens lets in. Just make sure if you are changing your aperture, you must change the ISO and the shutter speed to make sure you have correct exposure.
It’s important that you understand aperture because you’ll need to change this setting in different shooting situations. For example, when I’m doing large group photos at weddings or family photos at a family session, my aperture needs to be HIGHER to get everyone in focus. I usually bump my aperture up to 3.5 to make sure everyone is in focus while still having a creamy background! But when I’m working on bridal portraits or a grad session with just one or two people in the image, my aperture can be lower to get those extra creamy backgrounds.
There’s definitely a fine line when it comes to having bokeh but also having everything in focus, so it’s a balancing act! If I have a family session with active kids, I will bump up the aperture to make sure that they are in focus. That’s more important than a creamy background. But, my go-to aperture is around 2.8 – 3.5 – this allows for my senior or couple to be in focus while still getting that creamy background.
There is a trick to use a lower aperture with families or more than one person in the shot. You need to keep them on the same plane of focus. A trick is line up the toes so you are all in the same row. Just make sure the end peoples don’t curve in because they can be out of focus if you are using the lower aperture.
You can see with the family photo below I got the family as much as I could with their heads in the same row so I could use a lower aperture so I could have the blurry background. But if you look closely at the little boy on the right, he is a little out of focus because he is a bit closer to the camera than the others. So I should have raised my aperture so he was more in focus and have less blur in the background.
In the two images below, you can see how the bride and bridesmaids toes are in a row which means I could lower my aperture so I could get a little bit more blur in the background. Now look at the wedding party photo below. I wanted to make sure that the people and the building was all in focus so I used a higher aperture (less blur in background) and told them to walk in the same row.
Now that you’re equipped with these tips and tricks, get out there and try playing with your aperture! You’ll soon find a sweet spot that’s the perfect balance of focus and bokeh for your style!
Here are some more examples of that creamy background. These were probably taken around F2.8 – F3.2.
Now with that being said, sometimes you need the background to be more in focus to show off the landscape or like mentioned above with families, you need to have a higher aperture to make sure you capture the wiggly kids. It’s all what you want to capture – and that will depend on the session type, standing still or a movement pose, how many people and what the background looks like.
So here are some examples with the background that is sharper but still with a little blurry so the subjects still pop off the page! These images were probably taken between F3.5 – 4.0.
If you have any questions about this, send them my way! I love helping out new photographers!
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All images © 2021 Krystal Moore Photography