How to take a picture with a blurred background

Written by kathryn hatashita-lee
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How to take a picture with a blurred background
Photograph close to your subject and use selective focus. (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Photographs with the subject in sharp focus and a background in a diffused blur give a pleasing, surreal look. A film or digital camera featuring manual focus and aperture controls can produce this blurred background effect. A shallow depth of field and selective focusing draws attention to your subject. A blurred background can soften any distracting details.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Keep the subject far away from the background. Increasing the subject-to-background distance helps throw the background out of focus.

  2. 2

    Move the camera closer to the subject. As you focus on the subject, the background clutter will appear soft and blurred.

  3. 3

    Set the lens aperture to a wide setting. A 50mm lens often has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. Try photographing with a range of wide apertures, such as f/1.8, f/2 and f/2.8. This wide aperture results in a shorter depth of field.

  4. 4

    Focus on a specific part of the subject, such as a person’s eyes or a flower’s centre. Focusing with the limited depth of field makes the subject stand out and the background recede.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a lens with a long focal length if possible. A 28mm-to-135mm zoom lens produces a pleasing background blur at a focal length of 135mm. The subject in focus also appears more compressed.

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