Blur in Photography: Can you make this out of focus?

May 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Blur in Photography: Can you make this out of focus?

Part 1 of ‘What you Want’

In this four-part series, I will be addressing specific techniques like blur, flare, high and low key styles and some specialized styles like the shiny cartoon look and vintage/Indy style or film look. I am in the hopes that this will help you, the client, to better understand what you want to see in your portrait or other photography needs and, in turn, also help you choose the correct photographer for the style you prefer.

Portrait and Event Photography by Rachelle Morvant of Photograph Nashville

Blur in Photography

Photographers are armed with literal and figurative bags of tools. Some techniques require certain equipment while others come from skill and experience.

Can you make this out of focus or blurry?

I’ve been asked many times for “that blurry background look.” There are several types of blur that are captured in a variety of ways.  Among them are bokeh, motion blur, zoom effect blur and the unique Brenizer Method blur.

1.Bokeh

Portrait and Event Photography by Rachelle Morvant of Photograph Nashville

Bokeh is the aesthetically pleasing out of focus points.

According to Dictionary.com, bokeh is, “a Japanese term for the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photographic image.”

Key terms here are subjective and aesthetic. While it could be argued that anything out of focus is bokeh, all blur is not created equal.

Photoshop can blur a background but it couldn’t have created the beautiful spheres of light (shown above) rendered by a quality lens. This is where the terms subjective and aesthetic enter. Quality Bokeh is created using lenses with a shallow depth of field, meaning a very shallow plane of the image is in focus and everything before and after becomes out of focus.

This type of image is good for moody or romantic styles of photography.

Photographers who love their bokeh search long and far for the perfect lens. One prerequisite is that the lens have a very large aperture, which conversely, is designated by a very small number. I won’t go further into gear talk. A quality photographer that is charging professional rates most likely will have the correct gear.

The above images are another example of bokeh but lacking the highlights and circles created by an intense light source such as a bulb or fire. Instead it creates a soft texture behind the subject that helps to bring out what’s important and everything else fades away. The degree of softness is also affected by the aperture and choice of background as can be seen in the two above. The left is busier while the right is simpler.

2. Motion Blur

There are a couple of types of motion blur…

Panning, shown above, is motion blur accomplished by panning the camera with the subject, effectively making the subject still while blurring the background as the lens moves past it. This is definitely a technique that requires skill and either the simplest camera or can be complicated by mounting cameras and riding alongside the subject. This type of motion blur typically needs sufficient light to accomplish.

Portrait and Event Photography by Rachelle Morvant of Photograph Nashville

An example of ‘dragging the shutter’ where there is movement in the image while a flash freezes a fraction of that second.

Another form of motion blur, termed ‘dragging the shutter‘ seen above, happens in low light and is an effect caused by a slow shutter- that allows for motion- and a flash- that captures the action still. This technique requires the correct equipment and skill and is excellent for events. I really like this type of motion blur as it shows a past and present.

 

3. Zoom Effect

Zoom effect blur occurs when the photographer actively zooms in or out while the shutter is open. This is a cool effect when used appropriately. If you’re looking for a high-energy image that stands out, this might work for you.

Portrait and Event Photography by Rachelle Morvant of Photograph Nashville

To create zoom effect blur here, I zoomed out while the shutter was open. This required a tripod, a manual trigger, flash and a bit of skill.

4. Photoshop Blur

Portrait Photography by Rachelle Morvant of Photograph Nashville

This shot uses Photoshop blur to recreate a tilt-shift lens effect.

Here is an example of Photoshop blur tool used to mimic a tilt-shift lens blur effect. This image will look different from an actual tilt-shift lens because the blur was applied across a two-dimensional image instead of being rendered from a three-dimensional object.

 

5. Brenizer Method

Portrait and Event Photography by Rachelle Morvant of Photograph Nashville

This image was created using 30 images.

The Brenizer Method uses 15-30 (or more) images to create one image. The technique uses a shallow depth of field that isolates the subject as you take many images then stitch them together in Photoshop. It offers a unique look that is great for people, places and things.

Contact Rachelle for portrait and event photography

www.PhotographNashville.com

www.RachelleMorvant.com

 


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