ONCE you have switched to the ‘Manual‘ mode (hopefully forever) it is time to use your DSLR for capturing some cool shots. When you think of photography immediately a few common genres pop up in our minds. It is not unusual as lot of photographers have started their journey through one of them. Commonly heard ones are Landscape, Portrait, Food, Product etc. What differentiates the genres is the object in focus or simply put the story your picture wants to tell.
One of the most common question I get asked is, “How do you blur the background ?”
The answer to this question will help us uncover a key aspect of photography that will help you get sharper images from here on. In one of my earlier posts I had introduced the exposure triangle and details on aperture and its effects on the shot. (In case you missed it read it here.) Building on that further, we can use our DSLRs to bring out sharp shots of the subject in focus.
Let us try it out – here’s how :
Step 1: Choose an object to shoot. At this stage refrain from using a live model as that can get slightly technical. Preferably the object should be light weight and small in size to be able to move it around. A coffee mug or a wrist watch would be an ideal prop. I started with flowers. You may want to choose a bright colored flower to make the edge sharp. Don’t worry about that now, will explain that a little later.
Step 2: Position the your prop on top of a strong base (a table or a workbench) such that there is enough space behind the prop and has a distinct background (not just a plain white or colored wall). The room should be aptly lit to be able to carry out this experiment.
Step 3: Put on a zoom lens (18-55mm or 55-200 lens). You will notice the 18-55mm lens has a range of f 3.5 to 5.6. .Here f3.5 is the lowest aperture at the lowest focal length of 18mm which gradually changes to f5.6 as the lens is zoomed to 55mm. Zoom out to 18mm and hold.
Step 4: The ideal way to shoot the prop would be at an angle between 30 to 80 degrees, “not at an angle of 90 deg (not straight above). This ensures the focus is on the prop while you are able to include a part of the background in the frame. This also avoids shadows falling right on the prop and ruining it. Such an angle is also known as the high angle shot. (more on this later)
Step 5: Now once the camera is ready, align the shot in an angle that covers the frame and the ‘focus box’ in the view finder touches the prop.
Step 6: This is probably “the most important” step in getting your composition right.
It will change the way your shots look once you have taken them. The key thing to do is “FILL THE FRAME”, which means to ensure that the prop fills up most of the area in the shot.
Ideally, step back and zoom in to be able to lock your focus (see next step) effectively and/or once you have done that if still space exists, “USE YOUR FEET” – walk in towards the prop till you have the frame comfortably filled.
‘USE YOUR FEET’ gets amplified while using a prime lens which has a fixed focal length of either 50 or 35mm. You need to move yourself to zoom in.
Step 7: Set the shutter speed to anywhere above 1/60 sec and f to its lowest (f3.5 if you are using the 18-55mm lens. If you have zoomed in from 18mm to 55 mm you will see f3.5 has moved to f5.6-automatically. These are the favorable settings to get a sharp shot with blur background. Lock the focus, you can do this by ‘half pressing’ the shutter. The focus box must be touching the prop while you attempt to do this. (Tip in tip – always try to capture a sharp edge rather than a smooth surface. The sensor processes the information better.)
Step 8: Once you hear the beep and are satisfied with the shot in the screen or viewfinder squeeze the shutter button down fully (do not press it – squeeze it – this will avoid shakes).
You will see the result in the shot taken. The shot is sharp and background is a beautiful buttery blur, also known as ‘BOKEH’
Post your amazing likes and interesting comments/questions below.
Share your shots below (post a link or email them to me if you wish to receive feedback.) Would be happy to help you learn.