Photo Tip Friday: How to Blur the Foreground or Background for Greatest Effect

by Mary Denman
ISO 400, 44mm, f/2.8, 1/40

Welcome back! This week, I want to teach you a technique that I've really been working on recently. I want to share what I've learned. 

The big tip for this week is to learn how to blur the part of the picture that will provide the most interesting perspective for the photo. 

What does this mean or look like? Let's get started. 

These are all shots I took at a wedding. This is my youngest daughter. The candle caught my eye. I focused on her and let the candle be out of focus. 

Of course I had to try it both ways. 

ISO 400, 44mm, f/2.8, 1/50

focused on the candle and let my daughter be blurred.

What do you think? Personally, I like the second one the best. 

Why? Because it's pretty clear that I focused on the candle. It was intentional. In the first picture, to me, it just looks like I didn't frame it the best way I could. 

But, that's just my opinion. Too, I could always crop the first picture and not have the candle in it at all. What do you think?

ISO 1600, 49mm, f/2.8, 1/80

The bride used the same florist as my daughter and I wanted to get some shots of him and his flowers. He's a bit self-conscious about pictures so the focal point is on his flowers in the foreground and he is blurred in the background. He loved the capture! 

(Free advice: Always be considerate of how your subjects feel about getting pictures taken. Work with them and you'll get better shots and they'll trust you more. Now, back to regular programming...)

ISO 1600, 49mm, f/3.2, 1/80

So what does it look like to blur the foreground effectively?

Look at this photograph. Notice the framed table decorations in the foreground. I composed the shot with them in mind. But I "looked" past them to focus on the bride and her groom. I was happy with this photo.

For me, having the foreground clear and the background blurry is a much easier shot to take than the opposite.

Here's what I've learned (through much trial and error) to make the blurred foreground look better.

1) Make sure the blurred foreground looks like it's supposed to be blurred. 

Too little a blurred area in the foreground can  just appear to be a mistake. But when you have enough area out of focus, it looks intentional. 

How do you do this? Practice, practice, practice. 

2) Notice the distance between the foreground subject and background subject. 

In the picture of my daughter with the blurry candle, she's only a foot or two away. That worked fine for the clear candle/blurry person. It didn't work as well for the opposite. But in the picture of the bride and groom, the table decorations are 20 or so feet away. Because there's such a large distance between them, the contrast is more noticeable. 

3) Make sure the blurred subject is positioned and framed within the overall photo. 

This shows that you included them on purpose. Look at the picture of the bride and groom dancing. The table decorations are framed within the shot. 

4) Place your camera near the foreground subject. 

Then, which ever technique you choose, blurry foreground/clear background or vice versa, you will show that you created the effect on purpose and it makes the difference between your subjects stand out more. 

For Cell Phone Users: To create these shots, you actually have a bit of an advantage to get these shots easily. Remember that where you touch on your smart phone screen for your photo is the place the meter reads and focuses on. So, if you touched on the flowers in the third shot, you could easily re-create it. 

For Bloggers/Writers: As bloggers, we do want to be clear when we write. On the web, we have a shorter time to get a message or thought out. People move on to the next site pretty quickly. So, we need to be clear.

But, if you're a novelist kind of writer, there are times when a little mystery is a good thing. Take the picture of the bride and groom. You can see the shape of the vase even though it's not clear. But you can't see all the particulars of all of the decorations. This would be akin to dropping hints or a bit of background story into your novel that will come into play later. You're putting it right in front of the reader, but since it isn't a big deal, it goes into the subconscious thought process and when it's revealed at the end, the reader can finally see it clearly! 

So, which pictures do you like and why?

Hope this tip helps.

Keep on clicking!


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  1. Great pictures! I need to start taking pictures for my blog instead of being lazy and using ones on

    1. You can do it Sherry! I write a lot of my posts, inspired by my pictures. Sometimes, I have an idea for a post and then go looking for pictures. But I will say, because I also teach photo tips here on my blog, I am always on the look out for teaching tips. So once you start looking for inspiration, you will find it!

      You can do it Sherry!

  2. Great photos and wonderful tips. I just got a new lens this week, that I have been dreaming about for quite a while. I switched to micro 4/3 about a year ago. My new lens is 45mm prime f1.8. I can't wait to give it a good try this weekend.

    1. Forgot to say, I like the first photo of your daughter as she is so pretty I hate to see her blurred. I think I would have liked it better as a portrait without the candle, however I love the foreground blur effect on the flowers, especially knowing that the man in the photos doesn't like his photo taken.

    2. Rhonda, tell me how the lens works!!! It sounds incredible! I don't have a macro lens. I'm in the process of deciding on a new camera body. Full frame or not. Will my current lens fit or not. Next lens. You know, all the big questions!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Thanks for these tips, especially for y phone, I dont even use a camera anymore.

    Thanks for stopping by to share your post, I just pinned it to our Weekends Party Board also.
    Hope to see you next week.
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend

    1. Thanks Karren! I'm trying to always have the cell phone tips, but I sometimes forget to use it when I have my Canon with me. But if you ever have questions, just leave them in the comments or email me and I'll be happy to try and help you take better pics.

  4. Great tips Mary, love how you blurred the pictures :)

    Thanks for linking up #weekendbloghop

    1. Thanks Claire! It's fun to play around.

      Have a great week!

  5. I don't think your wonderful tips would work with a cell phone camera.

  6. Mary, I actually like the first one better, because Laura is clear, but both the candle in the foreground and the lights in the background are out of focus. It's a pretty neat effect.