Monday, February 2, 2009

G9: Blurring the background

A blurred background is useful for isolating and emphasizing the main subject. Extremely blurred backgrounds add a particularly nice effect to portraits. Unfortunately, extreme background blur is not easily obtained using short focal length lenses such as are used with the Canon G series and most other small sensor digital cameras.

The concept for producing a blurred background is simple: use a combination of focal length, aperture and distance such that the background is outside the depth of field. In practice, this means selecting a telephoto lens with a large aperture, placing the camera near the subject and placing the subject away from the background. With the G9, this means zooming the lens to near maximum, forcing the largest possible aperture and placing the subject far from the background.

A previous posting showed how the depth of field varied with the focal length of the G9 at “portrait” distances. Another post showed the maximum aperture for those focal lengths. These two posts illustrate the relationships between zoom (focal length), shooting distance and aperture for the G9.

For this picture of Hannah, I used the G9 at maximum zoom, f4.8 and was about 12 feet from her. The shrubbery was another 12 feet away; the fence (barely discernable) was about 30 feet behind Hannah. These are fairly generous distances; in fact, more separation than is often available. Even so, the background behind Hannah is not particularly blurred (click for a larger image).

Depth-of-field calculations are based on small but noticeable blurs at certain enlargements and viewing distances. For more information, visit and study at DOFMaster. In contrast, the background blur that many photographers want for portraiture is extreme. My own personal favorite is of Wallace; however, it was not made with the G9.

Small sensor cameras like the G9 are great when the goal is to have nearly everything in focus but such cameras are just not the right tool for producing extreme background blur for ‘portrait’ photography.

No comments: