View Full Version : How to focus on subject, not background?

08-16-2006, 11:05 AM
I love taking photos, but havn't had any training in photography... could anyone tell me how to get that beautiful look of the subject in the foreground in focus, and the background out of focus?
I have a good digital ( with macro, portrait and other modes ) that has manual settings as well ( I just don't know enough about them to use it very often!)

Any help? Or a good website that has advice??


08-16-2006, 11:15 AM
The key is using those manual settings :)

You want to use a shorter depth of field and keep the focused area on your subject, while allowing the background to be outside of your depth of field.

There are some fab tutorials on the net, possibly by camera type. I go to a specific tutorial site for RebelXT, since that's what I'm reading up on right now! :)

08-16-2006, 11:42 AM
Thanks for your reply - I have gone through my manual, and I know how to access the manual settings... I can only get an f-stop of 3.2, and it doesn't seem to make any difference. I was wondering if there was anything else I needed to do? anyone? I'm so clueless!

08-16-2006, 12:00 PM
What camera are you using?

I'd be happy to help you search for some tutorials that are based on that camera! :)

08-16-2006, 12:30 PM
I'd start with portrait mode and once you get comfortable there move into manual mode. (That's what I did.) Portrait mode will give you more room for error.


08-16-2006, 01:57 PM
The easiest way for me to get that wonderful BG blur is to use my dSLR lol. I could get a little BG blur w/my old digital P&S, but that was playing around w/the limited manual settings (don't exactly remember) and you can get a bigger difference if your subject is further away from the BG. So not so great in the living room, but ok when at the park for example. But even w/a dSLR you will get a nice blur in your living room :D

08-17-2006, 07:27 AM
I have a Kodak Easy Share DX6490, quite a nice little thing ( 10x optical, Schneider lense... ). It has a PSAM mode, I go to the "M" mode, and from there I can change the f-stop. I think I get confused - lower number means bigger apature, means closer depth of field? or do I have that mixed up?
oh boy. I think I need to take a course on this!!! :)

08-17-2006, 07:38 AM
Let's see if I can remember this right . . . the smaller the f-stop number, the larger the opening. This means that more light gets brought into the shutter and the blurrier the background will be. I think I had it explained to me like this: think about painting, the larger the brush (more paint - more light on the canvas) equals not as much detail as as a smaller brush (less paint - less light) with more detail. Does this make any sense? It's also referred to as aperture. The A setting on your dial is aperture priority which allows you to set the aperture to what you want and then the camera sets the shutter speed.

I certainly hope I haven't confused you;)


08-17-2006, 07:45 AM
Here's a decent explanation:

I love this site:

(half of that is canon rebel specific, half is not)

Another one:

08-17-2006, 07:47 AM
oh and I TOTALLY agree on portrait mode. It works wonderfully :)

08-17-2006, 07:53 AM
I just fake it in photoshop! Extract the figure w/feathering about 5-15 and apply gaussian blur to the background layer.

I never had time to fiddle w/camera settings so this is the easiest way for me.

08-17-2006, 08:30 AM
A P&S won't give you as good a background blur as a dSLR. It's just how they're designed, it has to do with the size of the sensor.

I think the best thing to do would be to put it in either aperture priority or manual mode, set the aperture number to the smallest it will go. If you don't have any of these modes, put it in portrait as it's designed to do the same thing. Then step back and zoom in as far as you can using your optical zoom, the longer focal length will give you better blur.

Then if that fails - I agree, fake it! I've done that on a couple of my P&S shots where I had to have the blur, looks great! But be careful not to overdo the gaussian, it'll look obviously fake then.

08-17-2006, 09:21 AM
I've tried to PS the blur in my P&S photos (just subltely), but was never satisfied...maybe b/c *I* know it's fake lol. And a dSLR makes it easy for a novice (like me) to do this w/the kit lens that would not be easy to accomplish in photoshop:

ETA: photo not edited excepted re-sized. I did adjust the levels in PS when I used this in a LO though.
(I shot in AV mode)

08-17-2006, 09:30 AM
Karen, great shot - perfect focus!!

Thinking about it, you definitely have to have the right shot to fake it. And it won't be anything like true bokeh, but it's still nice when it's done well.

08-20-2006, 08:20 AM
Other things to consider when trying to throw the background out of focus are zooming in and keeping your subject as far away as possible from the background. I took this shot with the 18-55 kit lens~

Tv( Shutter Speed )
Av( Aperture Value )
ISO Speed

08-21-2006, 05:40 AM
I am not sure you will be able to achieve this nail on with a P&S as nice as a dSLR does -- but I did achieve a SMALL blur when I was using my P&S and I have seen others do so as well with a little help from Photoshop.

The blur was the one reason I really wanted a dSLR lol -- I knew I just LOVED that look because my house is a mess and I hated seeing everything in the background haha.

Hopefully you will be able to achieve it -- also, it helps if you put as much distance as possible between the subject and your background