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How to Focus a Camera on One Thing & Blur Out the Background

by Brian Hooper

You can take a priceless shot without using Adobe Photoshop or other photo editing tools to blur out the background. You’ll need a single-lens reflex, or SLR, camera, rather than a basic digital pocket camera. The reason is the SLR’s aperture. A wide or large aperture, or lens opening, creates a shallow depth of field, which is a geeky way of saying everything in the frame isn't all in focus. A pocket camera generally doesn't enable you to shoot with a lens that has an aperture wide enough to create the depth necessary for blurring, though there are exceptions.

Step 1

Adjust your camera to the portrait mode on the mode selection dial. This setting automatically produces a blurry background because it adjusts the camera’s lens to a wider aperture. If your camera doesn’t have this mode, which is typically found on SLRs, then you’ll have to use a manual method to blur out the background instead.

Step 2

Adjust your camera to the aperture priority mode, if this feature is available. It’s typically shown as “A” or “Av.” Adjust the aperture to the exact setting you need based on the type of contrast you want. For instance, an f2, which is a very large aperture setting, gives you a very soft blurry background, while an f8 keeps the background mostly in focus. Once you’re done, you can take the picture.

Back away from your subject as far as possible then zoom in. You could use a telephoto zooms lens, for instance. This method works because it also produces a shallow depth of field, according to “David Pogue's Digital Photography: The Missing Manual.”

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