Thursday, March 31, 2011

How do I make my background blurry?

That's a question I get asked a lot. The photographic term refers to DEPTH OF FIELD (or DOF).
Here's an example:
Here's what Ansel Adams said about DOF in his book The Camera:
"We can achieve critical focus for only one plane in front of the camera, and all objects in this plane will be sharp. In addition, there will be an area just in front of and behind this plane that will appear reasonably sharp… This total region of adequate focus represents the depth of field."
 The APERTURE of your lens controls depth of field (DOF)...
  • Aperture is the hole in the lens that light travels through to reach the film or camera's digital sensor.  
  • Aperture is comparable to the iris of your eye which controls the size of the pupil
  • Aperture is measured in f-stops
  • Wide aperture lets in more light
  • Narrow aperture lets in less light
  • Wide aperture (smaller f/# such as f/2) = shallow DOF
  • Narrow aperture (larger f/# such as f/22) = deep DOF
To get a shallow DOF set your camera to Aperture Priority.  (This means YOU set the aperture and the camera will choose the shutter speed to obtain proper exposure.  For Canon cameras Aperture Priority is Av on your camera mode dial.) Set the aperture to the lowest possible f-stop # (such as f/3.5).

In order to obtain a very shallow DOF you must have a relatively "fast" lens.  Your kit lens (the lens that came with your camera) may not be fast enough - meaning, the aperture may not open up wide enough to give you a really shallow DOF.  In that case, you might want to consider a "Nifty 50" lens. (article coming soon... in the meantime, just google your camera manufacturer plus 'nifty 50', example: "canon nifty 50")

TIP: If you have trouble remembering that a wide aperture (such as f/2) is a small f-number and a narrow aperture (ex: f/16) is a large number try thinking of it as a fraction. Just as 1/2 is larger than 1/16th, f/2 is larger than f/16.  

There are two other things that effect DOF:
1) Distance of subject to the lens. Get closer to obtain a more shallow DOF.
2) Focal length of your lens. Use a longer focal length for shallow DOF. (For instance, you will get more shallow DOF with a 200mm focal length than with 50mm.)   

Now you know!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Outdoor Portrait Workshop

A couple of weeks ago I gave an Outdoor Portrait Workshop for the Hill Country Camera Club.  Here's a photo of one of our lovely models. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Kerrville, Texas

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Homage to Spring Break

Sad to see my Spring Break week come to an end.  And now the countdown to summer begins...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fix-It-Friday #91

Here's my entry for I Heart Faces Fix It Friday.

Just to be clear: This is NOT MY PHOTO. It is provided to us by Dana Suggs and everyone edits the same photo. Got it? Dana's photo. My edit.

 Here's a larger version of my edit...

Here's how I did it:
1) I did some major sharpening on her eyes.
2) I used Topaz Detail (a Photoshop plugin) to convert to black & white.
3) Radial Blur filter centered on her face. Erased the blur off of her face using a layer mask.
4) Cleaned up some of the stray vines (on a separate layer).
5) Added a texture and changed the Blend Mode to Color Burn (which I thought made it look sort of like an old, scratched up film image).
6) Added a vignette (Quick Edge Burn - a free Photoshop action from The Pioneer Woman)

That's it! As always, feedback & constructive criticism are welcome.
Hop on over to I Heart Faces to see everyone else's edit of this photo.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


This is Riley. He's my model for the Hill Country Camera Club's Spring Outdoor Portrait Workshop I'll be giving next weekend. He went with me to scout locations this morning. If you're interested in attending the workshop send me an email. Visit the HCCC website for more details & click the 'Field Trips' link on the side bar.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fix-It-Friday #89

 Here's my entry for I Heart Faces Fix It Friday.

Just to be clear: This is NOT MY PHOTO. It is provided to us by Dana Suggs and everyone edits the same photo. Got it? Dana's photo. My edit.

 Here's how I got there:

1)  Portraiture on his face. (I know, I know... not suppose to use it on guys but I knew the next step would really emphasize the slightest unevenness in lighting so, I wanted to smooth things out a bit. Normally, I would not use Portraiture on a guy!)

2) Topaz Adjust (Equalize preset) with a very light layer mask on the skin (face, arms, hands) to lower the intensity on those areas. This boosted the blacks significantly.

3)  Two curves adjustment layers to darken everything except the skin

4)  Lovely & Ethereal action (free from The Pioneer Woman) which softens & warms things up a bit.

5) Sharpened the eyes

6)  I did a little bit of work on the background (turned one of the white chairs blue, burned the white door & some of the stuff in the pile of rubble)

7)  Quick Edge Burn action (free from The Pioneer Woman)

Here's a larger version of my edit:
That's it! As with the last FIF I did it's fun to do something a little more edgy than my normal portrait style.

Feel free to leave feedback and constructive criticism in the comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One More Zoo Photo...

San Antonio Zoo

One final image from my trip to the San Antonio Zoo. If you're looking for a place to practice bird photography I'd highly recommend the San Antonio Zoo. They have the third largest bird collection in the US and many of the birds are in huge, multi-story enclosure that you can walk inside. No cages to shoot through! I passed over this image on my first sort but came back to it later. There was something about it that I liked... the body position of the bird and that great background. I experimented a bit and this is what I came up with.

I entered this one in the 2011 KACC Images Exhibit (the annual members show June 30 - July 31).
16x20 printed on metallic paper,  3/4-inch contemporary mount with black edges

This is the SOOC image in case anyone is interested: