Well ta-da!Β  You are one of the first to experience my highly intellectual, brain-stimulating editions of Tech Tips!!Β  I’m not much of a teacher.Β  But I absolutely LOVE talking about photography, so that’s kinda all I’ll be doing here.Β  I’m definitely no pro on any subject, but may have some useful tips for those who are interested in taking the leap to shooting in manual.Β  I’m going to attempt (don’t hold me to it) to have a Tech Tips blog post once a week, so if you have any questions about shooting, using light, settings on your camera or anything regarding photography at all, head on over to myΒ facebook page and ask!Β  It may turn into a blog post!

Today’s question comes from Marilyn: How do you do a pic where you have 2 subjects and the one in the front is blurred so the main focus is the subject in the back? What’s the best setting to have your camera on for that, the best distance to be, the correct ISO…
Also blurring the back subject…
Is it focussing on the subject you want blurred, hold down button half and the refocusing on sharp subject?

This question refers to controlling your “depth of field”. How deep do you want your field of focus. I often shoot with a very narrow depth of field, and I love how it isolates my subject. Here’s an example of a photo shot with a narrow depth of field:
f/2.0, ISO 640, ss 1/800 (shot with 85mm lens)
Blog Collage-1383620472030
Depth of field is determined not only by your aperture, but also by how close you are to your subject and the length of your lens. The closer you are to your subject, the shallower your depth of field. So if you are planning to do a headshot of someone, you don’t necessarily need to open up to an aperture of 2.0 or lower to get that nice creamy background. Here is a photo also shot at f/2.0. But because I’m standing further away from my loooovely subjects, and I’m using a lens with a shorter focal length (the 50mm), the background has more definition than it did in the previous pic.
f/2.0, ISO 200, ss 1/1250 (shot with 50mm lens)
Blog Collage-1383621219933
So Marilyn, in answer to your question, here are two images that show exactly what you’re asking. If i’m understanding what you’re asking πŸ˜‰
f/2.8, ISO 250, ss 1/250 (shot with 85mm lens)
Blog Collage-1383621565077
My settings for these two images are exactly the same, but in the image on the left, I focused on Allen & Michelle. Because of the narrow depth of field, and my proximity to my subject, the leaves in the foreground appear out of focus. In the image on the right, I focused on the leaves, and the background appears out of focus.

With regards to focal length, the longer your lens, the narrower your depth of field will be. For example, standing 15′ from your subject, shooting with a Nikon D600 and 50mm lens at f/2.0, will give you a depth of field (area of focus) of 3.29 feet (according to an online depth of field calculator that I have linked below), whereas shooting with the same camera, from the same distance, with the same aperture with a 200mm lens, will give you a depth of field of 0.2 FEET!! That is RAZOR THIN! When I was just starting out, and had a couple of lenses to play with, I used that depth of field calculator a lot. It’s one thing to shoot a single subject with a very narrow depth of field, but what if you’re shooting a family? You want to make sure that EVERYONE is in focus. Even if there are a couple rows of people.
I use a wider depth of field when I feel that the location helps to tell the story. Like the image below – we were in a gorgeous setting, and I had no need for any background blur at all.
f/10, ISO 1000, ss 1/160 (shot with 14-24mm lens at 19mm)
Blog Collage-1383670607515
But the biggest tip I can give you is to just get out there and practice. I have a kajillion pictures of two rocks on my kids’ picnic table, one slightly in front of the other, that I shot from all different distances and with all different apertures to try and become comfortable with controlling my depth of field. It is much more difficult to achieve sharp focus on your subject when shooting at very low apertures, so start a bit higher – maybe in the f/4.0 – f/5.6 range – until you’re comfortable with that, and then slowly work your way lower. It’s exciting to achieve gorgeous bokeh (that delicious background blur that I love), but the picture is worth nothing if the subject is not in focus. Just my 2 cents πŸ˜‰
Hopefully that helps you understand depth of field a little bit more!
You also asked about which ISO to use, and that’s another blog post all by itself πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the question!!

Additional resources:
Depth of Field Calculator
Wikipedia Definition of Depth of Field

  • Elsie Rogers

    Brilliant! Thanks for the very well worded and clearly explained info!!! ReplyCancel

  • Great information. Super simple and easy to understand. PS the photo in the boat is super dreamy!!ReplyCancel

  • Great blog post! I already shoot manual and I love shooting wide open but I didn’t know that the DOF calculator existed! That is so cool! Thank you for showing me something new:) Oh, and gorgeous images as usual:)ReplyCancel

  • I adore the shot on the pond! So beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Gorgeous images and such a super informative post!ReplyCancel

  • Well written post! Love the one in the pond πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Schwager Hanks

    Fabulously explained. Your writing style is easy to understand so I’m sure this will help kajillions of fans.ReplyCancel

  • Great tutorial! Loving the couple in the boat too! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Kelly

    great post! I also love the canoe photo! Look forward to future tech tips posts!ReplyCancel

  • Great tips and I LOVE the canoe shot!ReplyCancel

  • Marilyn Beekman Van Oort

    Guess I never did thank you for the info- just got excited and went out and played with my camera, lol! Thanks! It was very helpful!

I was so excited to shoot Brent & Rianne’s gorgeous outdoor wedding. Rianne is Sophie’s younger sis, who I went to school with for 13 years and was great friends with. Rianne, Sophie and their two other sisters, are just these ridiculously sweet, funny, and downright wonderful people, and there’s just no downside to being around them. So when Sophie started planning Brent and Rianne’s wedding (before they even met officially, if I remember correctly πŸ˜‰ ), she made sure I was on board to shoot their wedding! Soph contacted me last year to arrange family pics, and asked if I would be able to do their engagement pics at the same time. I laughed!! But it turns out that Brent had plans of his own! He facebooked me and asked if I would be able to come out to Vancouver one Friday night to do their engagement session as he was planning to propose that night. I was SO EXCITED!! I wish I could’ve photographed the proposal, but because he did it on top of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, there wasn’t really any place for me to hide πŸ˜‰ But we had an AWESOME time at their Stanley Park engagement session (which was featured recently on Beloved Darling blog! ).
Their wedding day (and a good week or two before) was GORGEOUS and sunny. It was perfect weather and the perfect time of year. Rianne got ready at her parents, with her mom and sisters and a couple close friends hanging out and eating pancakes. Can’t think of a better way to kick off the first day of the rest of your life!
The girlie crew in their matching robes that Soph found on Ebay . A good dutch girl can always find a deal πŸ˜‰
Rianne’s oldest sister, Wieska, being the crafty mama that she is, actually made Rianne’s veil! Love this silhouette of her hairdresser putting it in her hair.
Rianne’s mom watching her girl get ready.
This is when it starts to feel official!!
Brent and the guys got ready at Brent’s parents place where Rachel showed up to get some shots. Loving those ties!!
Love this ring box that Brent found!
Love the bright, cheerful dΓ©cor that they went with. They had their outdoor ceremony in Rianne’s backyard. So beautiful!
And how’s this for the most unique guestbook ever!! They had all their guests sign their globe!
That is love, folks. Love is written all over that face.
I had never seen this done before and thought it was just beautiful. Brent and Rianne exchanged communion in front of all their family and friends to indicate the place that God has in their lives and that they will continue to keep Him first in their relationship.
Following the ceremony, we went down to the river for a few shots with the bridal party. Such beautiful light to work with in the fall!!
Check out that profile πŸ˜‰
Love the shadows
Then we went to an orchard with the most beautiful light. Thank you so much to the owners who gave us permission to shoot there!
Love this shot from Rachel.
And my bride climbed a tree!! Love this shot!!
We had a LOT of this to deal with πŸ˜‰ So many laughs!!
From there we headed to Abbotsford to meet up with the final member of the bridal party who couldn’t be there for the first part of the day. Love the colors we found!
Photographer FAVE!Β  ↓
Quite the stud there, Brent πŸ˜‰
After we were finished with bridal party photos, the wedding party headed off to Zaika restaurant for some delicious Indian food with family! Rach and I had a quick bite, and then headed to Legacy Sports Centre to get some detail shots of the reception.

Rianne’s bil, Martin, the awesome MC.

This was a hilarious game.Β  Brent and Rianne were blindfolded, pre-determined people would come and join one or the other on each side of the curtain.Β  The blindfolds would come off, the curtain would drop, and they would each have to name the people they saw on the opposite side of the curtain before the other person.Β  Of course, they wouldn’t THINK of just doing some straight up “1 person on each side” type stuff, so at one point Rianne had to name like 5 people really really fast.Β  Lots of laughs!!


Cutting the cake, the shoe game, and heartfelt, emotional and hilarious speeches.


And the first dance.Β  Swoon.Β  Loving all the lighting effects and great music put on by Artech Audio!

  • Wicked work! That silhouette blew my mind.ReplyCancel

  • great use of available light!ReplyCancel

  • Shannon

    I am so in love with the wide shot of the B&G in the tree’s with the sun flare poking through. Beautiful wedding!!ReplyCancel

  • Beautiful work. I am in love with the photo where they’re sitting in the grass under the trees. Stunning.ReplyCancel

  • Wonderful storytelling as usual! I love the shot of the flowers on the window sill and the whole set of them in the trees. Gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly

    That wide angle shot of the couple in those gorgeous trees is fantastic! How did you customize your pinterest button by the way? πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • I love this wedding! Gorgeous lighting!ReplyCancel

Char, from Charlene Stam Photography, and I just recently exchanged family photos for eachother. She lovingly, and with oodles of tact, told the story of how we met, and how we were destined to NOT be friends in this post here. But obviously, my boisterous personality is undeniable, and she simply couldn’t resist my charm. So now we’re friends. And it’s nothing short of totally rad. But little does she know, that the only reason I put up with her, is to be able to hang out with her RIDONCULOUSLY cute kids!
All kidding aside, I love this girl. And I’m so glad we swapped photography for eachother, because i’m absolutely head over heels with mine, and I hope I did the same for her.


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