Photography 101 – Working with Aperture to Get That Blurry Background

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I really enjoyed writing the post last week about blogging fashion blunders.  I think it still resonates with people even if they aren’t bloggers because it hits on photography and how to capture the pictures that you want.  I got such great feedback that I thought I would continue on with some photography basics.  Once again, I am not a trained photographer so for you that are, this is a totally basics post.  I am completely self taught and I’m a teacher at heart (between the college I teach at and Pure Barre) so y’all know that I love breaking things down in easy to understand steps.


Blogging Photography Tutorials 101

Okay when I started blogging and when I got my first DSLR camera I wanted to know how to create that “blurry” background.  With research I found there is a name for it and it’s called “bokeh“.  My mac keeps on autocorrecting this and it’s driving me nuts btw.  When you get a camera it will come with a starter kit lens.  In all honesty it’s great to play around with but I would tell you this.  Any camera you get just add $100 to it because you need to get this lens right off the bat.  Everyone calls it the “nifty fifty“.  Why you need this lens is because it has a lower “F-stop” than the lens your camera comes with.  That will help you get the blurred backgrounds.



When shooting in manual mode 3 settings, your shutter speed, f-stop and ISO.  They all work together but today we are going to talk about the f-stop.  First things about the other two.  Shutter speed, that allows for sharp pictures and also to “freeze things“.  If the shutter speed is 1/320, it will shoot very fast.  Think stopping water in a droplet kind of fast.  However, the faster the shutter speed, less light comes in.  Remember that.  When you drop your shutter speed say 1/60, more light in and you slow things down or blur if you are shooting action shots.

The way I think about ISO is adding light into the situation.  If you are in a dark cafe and want to add light without using your flash (we will talk about flash later but for now we are not working with it) you will want to increase your ISO.  If you are outside, you want to drop your ISO because there is plenty of light coming at you.  Just remember the more ISO you go up, the more “noise” you will add to your picture.  Noise = grainy but honestly it looks better than flash so if you need to go up to 6400 to get that light, do what you have to do.

Okay.  Back to aperture.  Refresher.  Low f-stop, more light in and blurry background.  Higher the number less light in and the whole scene is sharp.  Think low f-stop for those close up details and high f-stop for shooting outdoor scenery.

Let’s practice!  (side note of course the day I set aside for shooting for this it was pouring out.  All day.  Of course it was).  Also, I have not edited any of these pictures because I want you to see the logistics of the photo and not any editing.

How To Get Those Blurry Backgrounds

Blogging Photography Tutorials 101

See how the coffee cup is in focus and everything behind it is completely blurred?

How to acheive a blurry background

1/100, F-stop 2.0, ISO 800

Versus this picture where everything is in focus.  You can clearly see the chair behind the coffee cup and make out the details of that car on the street.

Higher F stop with aperture

1/60, F-stop 10, ISO 6400

I live on a golf course and have such pretty wildlife.  I was painstakingly trying to photograph the birds and they kept on flying away. Clearly somebody did not want any exposure.  Therefore, I apologize for the stagnant focal points but action shot models were not being cooperative.  Okay, moving on.

In focus greenery, blurry golf course in the background.  Notice how you can barely make out that red flag.

Working with aperture

1/320, F-stop 2, ISO 100

Oh hello bird that kept on flying away from me.  See how the entire shot is in focus and you can clearly see that red flag.Photography Tutorials

1/100, F-stop 5.6, ISO 200

Flowers in focus and blurry background.Flowers in focus

Shutter speed 1/200, F-stop 2.0, ISO 100

Now you can clearly see the chair behind it and the palm tree.Higher f stop

Shutter speed 1/40, F-stop 14, ISO 800

Hiding under awnings in the rain…..forgive my ground breaking focal points… chair and blurred backgrounds.Photography Tutorials 101

Shutter speed 1/250, F-stop 2.0, ISO 200

Versus you can see the entire background.Blogging Photography Tutorials

Shutter speed 1/30, F-stop 10, ISO 400

See how in this shot there were too many things to focus on, so the front appetizers are blurry, the middle are sharp and the background is blurry.  It’s all about trial and error but in this case, too many focal points to get that shot tutorial

1/160, F-stop 2, ISO 3200

See how much better this one is?  In focus front and blurred back bagels.  Now I’m wishing for homemade bagels!

Bagel photography shots

1/80, F-stop 4, ISO 1600

Christmas Dinner

1/125, F-stop 2.8, ISO 3200


Now Amanda you will ask me.  When will I want to shoot in a lower f-stop?  To answer that question, I like to shoot in a lower f-stop when I want to focus on one thing.  When you blur the background it places all the emphasis on that one thing you are shooting.  Think about when you are shooting makeup, jewelry, or products.  Things you want the focus on and then blur the backgrounds out.  For fashion photography it is nice to have focus on the outfit, clothes and accessory details and blur out the distracting backgrounds.

Stiks Lipsticks

Focus on the details, blur the background.

Tutorial on blogging photography

1/320, F-stop 8, ISO 100

Versus take in all the scenery.


1/320, F-Stop 10, ISO 100

Takeaway points.  When shooting in a low f-stop, you will have a lot of light come in.  If you are outside then you will have to adjust your other two setting to compensate.  When shooting scenery it’s better to have your f-stop narrow or the number up high because that will allow you to have the entire shot in focus (without bringing in too much light and over exposing the picture) versus a lower f-stop when you are focusing on a small detail.  Does that make sense?

higher f stop blog photography

Can you guess which f-stop I used on this one?

Now get out there and practice!  Find inspiration in your town and surroundings!

[bctt tweet=”Want to learn how to make those blurry backgrounds with your pictures? Check out this photography tutorial.”]

I hope you liked this tutorial and if you do please pin away and share!  Tell me if you find these helpful so I can continue on with them. Next week we will talk about ISO settings.  Make sure to check out my first installment of this series when it comes to avoiding those fashion photography blunders!  Hope you are having a great week!


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42 responses to “Photography 101 – Working with Aperture to Get That Blurry Background”

  1. Christina says:

    This is really helpful. After you mentioned some fun tips and tricks last week I started playing around. I just couldn’t get the background the blur.. But hopefully I can with these tips! My cat was my test subject.. But she can’t wait to model again haha. Thanks again for writing all this up!

    Christina :: Simple and Delish

  2. Shooting with a DSLR can be SO difficult at first but the f stop is the perfect place to start! Right after buying a new lens of course. I remember it took me months to figure out I needed a new lens haha! <3, Pamela Sequins & Sea Breezes

  3. Awesome tips girl! I just upgraded to a nikon d5300 and have been playing around with aperture settings. Saving this for later :)

  4. Tammy says:

    This is wonderful ! I love any tutorials you may want to share about photography !!!

  5. Great guide girl!! I still haven’t quite mastered this and when I blur the background it’s by accident LOL! xo, Biana –BlovedBoston

  6. Such a great camera guide! The nifty fifty is such a fun lens to work with!


    Whitney & Blaire

    Peaches In A Pod

  7. Emelia says:

    What an AWESOME tutorial. I am working on my photography and boy does it take time, but I’m excited to learn more. Thank you so much for all this great information!

  8. Katie @ Champagne & Suitcases says:

    Do you think there are any editing programs on the phone or computer that can do this? I don’t have a DSL so wondering how I can achieve the same thing.

  9. Jenn says:

    This is such a helpful post!! Thanks girl! :)

  10. I’m taking my first DSLR class at Vanderbilt college in Nashville and it’s teaching me SO much! this is so spot on!

  11. Lindsay says:

    This is an awesome series! Photography and using the camera are so tricky and so much of what I have read is so technical. This is awesome!!

  12. The nifty 50 and learning f stop was the number 1 thing that improved my photography skills!

  13. kristen says:

    great detailed post girl! i don’t have a dslr but i still enjoyed reading and learning because you explained it so well!

  14. Pinky says:

    Great break down, lady! Very helpful for the photog wannabes!

  15. Pinning this for when I get my “real” camera. I was going to sign up for a class at the community college when that happens, but maybe I just need to enroll in the Amanda school of photography! I love how you made something that could seem boring interesting!

  16. Thank you thank you thank you for this!!! I’ve been messing around with my new camera, but still have so much to learn – this really broke things down so I can actually understand what I need to do!

  17. Rachel says:

    This is seriously so helpful and so clear (especially for me, a photo-taking dum dum!). And I love the colorful mural behind you in the last picture. Make today work, Rachel –CubicleCouture

  18. Christina says:

    Lol as much as I love photography and use it for my blog, I couldn’t explain to anyone how I do it. I have just learned on my own through trial and error, and don’t know how to explain the technicalities. Oooops hahah

  19. Amanda says:

    Thanks so much for this. I’m still trying to learn my dslr so this comes in handy!!

  20. Lindsay says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I have looked up so many articles on this before but none are as clear as yours. I like how you kept repeating and reviewing what you went over; that seriously helped so much. My point-and-shoot has a manual setting, and over the summer I tried to learn how to adjust the settings to achieve that beautiful blurry background look but just ended up with a big mess. Looking forward to trying again with your tips!!

  21. Nadine says:

    I will have to save this post if I ever dig out Chris’s fancy camera!!! Love all your pictures!

  22. Andi says:

    Awesome tutorial and pics!

  23. Wow…Can I have this post like laminated so I don’t forget this!!! Thank you so much for posting this…I’ve never seen anyone actually explain how this lil trick can happen! My mom just bought a cannon rebel dlsr camera for Christmas…I might have to steal that lil thing so I can try this!! =)

  24. You are the bomb dot com for posting this guide! Can’t thank you enough and saving for future reference too.

  25. Shannon says:

    Such a great tutorial! Photography stuff just confuses me! Hence why I leave it to my husband haha!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  26. Haley says:

    I want to know where that awesome colorful wall is located. How cool is that for a backdrop.

  27. Such great tips! I’ve really wanted to try and up my photography game this year, it’s just a matter of finding the time to take pictures!

  28. Jess says:

    Awesome post. This makes me want to take a photography class to figure out how to use my dslr.

  29. Allena says:

    Thanks for the info! Super helpful, as I’m a DSLR noob. One day I’ll figure it out! Until then, it at least takes better pictures than my phone!

  30. Karly says:

    Fantastic post, girlfriend! I really love how you broke this all down and gave so many examples – it can get so confusing to remember what is what and what you’re supposed to do for more bokeh/less bokeh, etc. Your teaching skills definitely shine through here! :)

  31. Christina says:

    Fabulous tips! I’ve really got to actually take the time to just sit down and learn my camera!

  32. Owen Davis says:

    Saved this post!! Can’t wait to look back when I have time to sit down and work on my photog skills! Xo

  33. as i told you the other day, my style photography is where i need the most help, so THANK YOU for these tips!!

  34. Keep these coming Amanda! Your last tips helped so much! I seriously try to look at camera settings and see another language. Having someone break it down in a way I can actually understand is refreshing! (:

  35. I remember learning about f stops in high school photography class! Back when we still had dark rooms. Haha! I need to get a DSLR for sure… Christmas perhaps? Or Birthday? Hmmm. Love this tutorial of how to get those great looking shots!

  36. I love my nifty fifty! It rocks my world. Great tips lady! I need to work on photographing more things than just food, haha!

  37. Emily says:

    I am so thankful Bloglovin recommended this post to me, because it was exactly what I needed! I just got my first “big girl” camera for Christmas this year and it can be a bit overwhelming. I also just started a blog on January 1st. I had no idea how hard it would be to take pictures of objects that don’t move! I gained a new level of respect for all the bloggers I see out there (like you) with beautiful, flawless pictures. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future…in the meantime, I’m going to get caught up on all your previous blog/photography tips! Thanks again!

  38. Kristina @ Medicine and Manicures says:

    Great post!! I’m still trying to figure out the whole manual mode thing- my hardest thing (or Ryan’s I should say lol) is to get that super CRISP picture. They’re just not as clear as I’d like them to be…. but we’ll work on it!

    xo, Kristina
    Medicine & Manicures

  39. Sara says:

    I generally tell people not even to bother buying a lens kit – just get the camera and then buy the 50mm… because most kit lenses aren’t very good and people are frustrated and disappointed with their camera, not realizing that it’s more about the glass than the camera. I’ve recently discovered the Canon refurbished lens site, and there are some REALLY good deals on there. I’m officially a believer in that now…. particularly over any kit lens. But… I’m a lens snob. The 85mm 1.8 has really great bokeh capabilities at a great price, too…. once you master the 50mm. ;)

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