Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Achieve Stunning Photos By Blurring Backgrounds

blur background

Easy Technique For Professional Looking Food Photographs

If you are looking to give your food photographs a professional edge, this simple technique will help you immensely. Open up any food magazine and you will see photo after photo of delicious food amidst blurry and atmospheric backgrounds.

Blurring the background of a food photo can serve many purposes. It not only adds depth and mood, but it also fixes distracting backgrounds and places emphasis on particular parts of the food.

The technique is super simple, although much harder to produce if you're shooting with a point and shoot. Owning a dSLR really comes in handy for this technique.

How to blur backgrounds in second part of post...

Tip #1 - Use a Large Aperture Opening

If you're shooting on a digital SLR, utilize the Manual feature and shoot with a large aperture. Large apertures are signified by small numbers....confusing, I know, but trust me, it works. Your camera has numbers that relate to the lens opening. Numbers like 2, 4, and 5.6 will blur the background while retaining detail and focus on the food. These numbers are called F-Stops and this phenomenon is called Depth Of Field.

This technique requires that you adjust the shutter speed to attain a correct exposure. If this is beyond your skill set, change the setting to Aperture priority and select one of the numbers above(2, 4, 5.6) The camera will now expose automatically based on the setting you just gave it. The smaller the F-Stop number, the larger the blurred effect will be. Also, the closer you get to the food, the more significant the blur will be.

Tip #2 - Shoot on Portrait Mode

If you don't have a fancy digital SLR with manual modes you can still achieve this look. Most digital point-and-shoot cameras have a mode called "Portrait". It is usually signified by a small icon of a persons head. This "mode" acts like the Aperture Priority mode discussed in Tip #1, Utilizing a small F-Stop number to take the picture. The effect will not be as prominent as if it was shot with a dSLR, but it's a start. Also, some cameras have a 'macro' setting which can sometimes achieve a blurred background, but again, nowhere near as much as dSLR

Have any of you experimented with this technique? Any tips or thoughts?

Why not leave a comment and share your experience!


  1. Should probably also mention getting a very fast and inexpensive prime lens for dSLR users. Primes are tack sharp and are miles sharper compared to zooms (simplier to construct and smaller).

    The advantage of fast prime (ie - low f-stop, say f1.8 and hence large aperture) is low light shooting and ofcourse Bokeh (creamy blurry background).

    Cutting to the chase, if you own a nikon/canon dslr, get the 50mm f1.8, its a no brainer and you will get pro-looking shots.

  2. I bought my dslr recently and your posts really help me out. I don't have the 50mm lens yet, but it's next on my list.

    I use your dodge / burn trick often as well - keep the tips coming, I love reading them.

  3. Thanks Allison, I'm glad my tips are helping you out! I've got lots more in store (being a photography professor really comes in handy!)

  4. Didn't know this about the portrait mode. Thanks for the tip.

  5. I'm with Kang L. I have a Nikon D80 and that's the only lens I ever use because it works s'darn well!

  6. Not only is this good for food, but portraits of people as well!

    I'm really enjoying the site. As a new dSLR user, and a food blogger...I find it very handy. Keep up the great work!

  7. I'm glad you're finding the site helpful Laura! If you'd like me to cover any topics, please let me know...I'm always open to suggestions on topics to cover.