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Digital Photography Tips - Blowing out the background

When it comes to selecting a lens for a specific photo shoot there are so many factors that come into play. Do you want to shoot wide angle and have everything in sharp focus or do you want to shoot super tight and blow the background way out.

In the video below you see Greg demonstrating how by just changing the distance to the camera the background will totally change. The first section of the video is being shot with the Nikon D3s 70-200 2.8 VRI at 200mm. You can see that the background is blown out but you can still make out the shapes in the background. In the second part of the video Greg got closer to the lens and all that changed was the focus. Now you can see that being closer to the lens the background has been totally blown out and anything in the back is unrecognizable.

You don’t always need to have the best glass or fastest F stop to blow out the background. If you get closer to your subject and have a deeper background you can still get a similar effect with a 5.6 lens. Sure it is harder to blow out shorter backgrounds but it is possible with just about any lens.

Now lets look at what happens when you use wide angle lenses vs telephoto. When you use a telephoto lens you are compressing anything in the image, when you use wide angle you are doing the opposite of compressing. For example when I shoot head shots I love using my Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII because I can isolate my subject form the background. I zoom in as well as get closer to my subject which makes the compression even greater. If I were to use a Nikon 24-70 2.8 and try to get the same portrait at 24mm it would be pretty hard to replicate. The subject would look awkward and the background would probably be really sharp and distracting.

You may be wondering if it is possible to blow the background out even with wide angle lenses and the answer is yes. As you will see at the end of the video, if you get really close to your subject and your focus is much closer the background may still blow out.

Be sure to watch the full video as I go through actual sample images showing you how changing your focus and how close you are to your subject will change the amount you compress the background.