How to Create Soft Focus Backgrounds
December 18, 2013
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Portrait photographers make human subjects the prominent focal points of their images daily. The secret to their success? Soft focus backgrounds. This intentional blur of color makes people—not a backdrop—draw your eye into the picture. Sure, you can post-process images in Adobe Photoshop, but why not create this professional portrait look in-camera by using your technical skills and avoiding extra computer work?
Choosing a Lens
A telephoto or long prime lens works best. Start with a minimum focal length of 70mm to make it easy to reduce the depth of field or how far front-to-back the scene is focused. The longer the focal length of the lens, the simpler it is to specifically blur the background. For example, a telephoto 70-200mm zoom lens gives you the flexibly to go from a mid-length head-to-waist shot to a facial close-up (with a blurred background) without changing lenses.
Positioning Your Subject
Placement of your subject within the scene also effects the ability to blur the background. The more distance you have between your subject and the background, the easier it is to create a soft blurred background. A high school senior leaning against a wall will not have as soft of a background as an engaged couple standing 20 feet in front of a grove of evergreen trees.
SLR Camera Settings
The final step in creating soft focus backgrounds relies on choosing the best settings on your camera to decrease the depth of field in the final pictures. Choose a wide aperture setting, such as f2.8 or f4.0. The smaller the aperture number, the more shallow your focus will appear. Place the focusing point visible in the camera's viewfinder on your subject's face, and allow the background to naturally fall out of focus.
Do you prefer to create soft focus backgrounds in-camera or on the computer? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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