Bokeh in the background with a 50 mm lens. What am I doing wrong?

Started Apr 22, 2013 | Questions thread
Olaf Ulrich
Contributing MemberPosts: 942
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Re: Background blur with a 50 mm lens. What am I doing wrong?
In reply to RasiWick, Apr 22, 2013

RasiWick, first of all—what trekkeruss said. Bokeh is not the degree of background (or foreground) blur but the quality or character thereof. An entirely different thing! So please stop talking about bokeh when you actually mean blur.

RasiWick wrote:
I need to have a wide open aperture so that the subject remains in focus, but the background is out of focus. [...] To my disappointment, what I get is a very small area of razor sharp focus and the rest of the background out of focus.

So what you want is the subject in focus and the background out of focus, and you're disappointed to get the subject in focus and the background out of focus. Huh!?

RasiWick wrote:
This is clearly distinctly different that some of the portrait shots you'll see in a professional photographer's collection.

That's because your picture is just bad.

My suggestion for the particular picture shown above is: Stop down to f/2.8 or f/4 and move closer to your little model—cut the subject distance in half, or closer still. Consider rotating the camera to portrait orientation. For a face-only or head-and-shoulders portrait, a longer focal length would be preferable, such as 80 - 135 mm or thereabouts. For a portrait that includes some of the environment/background, a 50 mm lens on a 35-mm-format camera is fine ... but in the picture above, you included way too much background. And while a 50 mm lens can be used for this kind of picture, separating subject and background generally will be easier with a longer focal length.

Also keep an eye on how subtle variations of the shooting position—from slightly above your model's eye level, from exactly the eye level, or from slightly below the model's eye level—will have a significant influence on the result.

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