We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
2,862 Tutorials

Blur the background in photos

How to reduce depth of field in digital images

In this article we'll explain how to create that professional portrait look where the subject in a photo is in focus, but the background is out of focus and blurred.

How much of a scene is in focus is determined by the depth of field. If you want a large depth of field so that everything is in focus from the foreground to the far distance you need to either use your camera’s landscape mode setting or switch to aperture-priority more and select a small aperture (large f-number).

If you accidentally end up with too small a depth of field you can’t correct it later. However, sometimes you specifically want a small depth of field. A classic example is so you can photograph something or someone in the foreground while rendering the background blurred so that it won’t be distracting. You can achieve this by zooming in on your subject as much as possible, or by selecting a large aperture (small f-number). Compact digital cameras don't offer as wide a range of apertures as a digital SLR, but those with a big zoom can achieve the same effect.

Bear in mind that when shooting with very large apertures, such as f/1.8, you need to be careful to ensure your subject's eyes are in focus. When apertures are very large, only a tiny portion of the image could be in focus, so avoid using f/2 or below if there's more than one subject in the frame as if one is slightly closer to the camera one or the other will be blurry.

Of course, you can create the effect of a narrow depth of field by blurring the background of your photo in Photoscape.

Click on ‘Effects Brush’ in the Tools tab and select Blur from the options offered. Now paint over the parts of the photo you want to blur (probably the background) while holding down the left mouse button. Note that there are three different brush sizes to choose from. In reality, the effect is very subtle in PhotoScape (but not necessarily with other software) so you may have to repeatedly use the effects brush to achieve a really blurred background.

Photoscape depth of field blur background

Here are the before and after images:

Before

Photoscape depth of field - before

After

Photoscape depth of field - after

This article is part of our Fix your photos feature, and uses the free Photoscape image editor from www.photoscape.org. The principles apply to other image editing software, but the steps above explain how to achieve the fix in Photoscape.

IDG UK Sites

5 reasons not to wait for the Apple Watch: Why you shouldn't buy the iWatch

IDG UK Sites

Why local multiplayer gaming is rapidly vanishing: we look at the demise of split-screen and LAN...

IDG UK Sites

How Emotional Debt is damaging digital design

IDG UK Sites

How to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8: including how to install iOS 8 if you don't have room