Is improving your photography something you’ve had on your to-do list for a while? When I went back through your survey responses (sign up for our newsletter on the homepage to subscribe and fill out the survey!), photography was one request we heard a bunch.
It’s no surprise either! The internet is a very visual place and having high-quality, eye-catching images is one way to set yourself apart from other bloggers. And guess what, you don’t have to hire a professional or have a background in photography to get gorgeous images! All you need to do is learn how to use the manual settings on your camera, and I promise it’s not as hard as it seems — Jess and I both learned it! If we’re being honest, we don’t know everything, but you don’t need to.
One question we got asked over and over again was this…
How do I get that blurry background in my photos?!
It’s a great question and I asked this same question several years ago. If you’re like me, you might be surprised to find out that it doesn’t have anything to do with crazy editing techniques or Photoshop.
That’s right! In fact, it all starts with your camera.
If you have a DSLR and haven’t tried playing with your manual settings, this long weekend is the perfect time to try! So let’s dive in!
There are three main pillars of photography — Shutter Speed, Film Speed (ISO) and Aperture (F-Stop). When you shoot in manual, you have complete control over these three things. They work together to help you achieve a number of different types of shots. But today, we’re just focusing on one of them, and that’s aperture or F-stop.
Why? Because this is the setting that will give you that blurry background, also known as bokeh (pronounced bo-ke).
Aperture is my favorite of the three pillars because it makes my photography look a lot more professional, artsy, interesting and allows you to blur backgrounds. Creating a focal point in your imagery is one of the easiest ways to draw your readers in and hook them for good. For that reason alone, we think photography is worth learning — don’t you?!
Okay, so I keep throwing these technical terms at you, but what do they mean?!
Aperture (or F-Stop) refers to the size of the hole through which light passes into the camera. When you make the size of the hole bigger or smaller, you change the amount of light that comes in. Depending on your lighting situation, you may choose to change your aperture, but I typically change my ISO when I need more or less light. For the most part, I only use aperture to determine the depth of the shot.
The depth of the shot or the depth of field refers to how much or little of the image is in focus. A shallow depth of field (smaller F-stop number) will only focus on the objects in the foreground and leave the background blurry. A wide depth of field (bigger F-stop number) will give you an image where the foreground and more of the background is in focus.
The benefit of using a shallow depth of field for shooting photos for your blog, is that you can help direct readers to the important part of the shot — like an outfit, or a detail of an outfit, or a specific ingredient in a recipe.
If you’re feeling confused, remember this…
The smaller the f-stop number, the less in focus the background will be, and
The bigger the f-stop number, the more in focus the background will be.
If your mind is spinning, go ahead and take a few test shots. I’m a visual person so being able to see the difference always helps!
Rule of Thumb
When it comes down to your actually shooting, what aperture is best? Everyone will have differing opinions on these numbers, so don’t feel like you have to stick to these. It’s what I typically use, but feel free to play around with bigger and smaller apertures until you get the look you want.
Full-Body Shots: I typically shoot at f/3.2 or f/3.5 — I used to shoot with a 50mm 1.8 lens and my face and feet were always blurry. I thought that my lens was just crappy, but I soon realized it was because I was shooting full-body images on f/1.8. That’s a very shallow depth of field so it was only picking up a few details in the middle of my body. Upping my aperture allowed my entire body to be in focus and just left the background blurry. This was shot on f/3.2.
Detail Shots: I use a lower aperture here like 2.0-2.8. When I’m shooting details, I want the focus to be on one small area and this allows me to do that! In this image you can see that the bag is in focus, but the shoes are blurry. This was shot on f/2.5.
Lifestyle Shots: I shoot a lot of these around the house and I actually vary my aperture depending on what I’m shooting, but a good rule of thumb would be around f/2.5-f/4. This was shot on f/3.5.
Food/Product from Above: Shoot with a higher aperture, like f/4-f/5 when shooting food from above. It will ensure that everything is in focus and for shots like this, that looks best! This was shot on f/4.5.
Food Details: Again, I’ll shoot at f/2.0-f/2.5 for details of food to show off a specific element, like this blistered cherry tomato. This was shot on f/2.2.
Travel or Landscape: Typically f/3.5-f/5.0 is great for travel — it will allow you to get a lot in focus, but still give you a bit of bokeh so it looks artsy! This was shot on f/4.5.
Things to Note
Jess and I both shoot with a Canon 60D and use a 35mm prime lens. You don’t need this exact camera or lens to get similar results! We do recommend a prime lens (one that doesn’t zoom!) for blog photos and we both like the 35mm because it gives us a wider view than a 50mm and we’ve found it to be more versatile for everyday use.
We should also mention that not all lens have apertures as low as f/1.8. Some only go as low as f/4.0. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you likely won’t be able to create that same depth of field that you’re looking for with a lens that only goes as low as f/4.0.
Questions?! Leave them below!8