Sunday, February 6, 2011

Separating your Subjects

There is one thing that as a DSLR user that you have over a point and shoot.  Aperture control.  This can be one of the most powerful tools you have to create good looking photographs.  The wider the opening (lower the f-stop) the more shallow the depth of field.  You can check out a full blog post that I did on aperture if you want to know more.  Check it out here.

This blog post is about separating your subject from the background.  I have three examples below from my recent trip to Cuba.  The first one below I used a small aperture to ensure that the city in the background was in focus almost as much as the subject.  I was able to get some separation from the background by getting low and shooting up.  This puts the horizon just below his chest and his upper body pops off the blue background.

Overlooking Havana, Cuba

The next example here I used a larger aperture blurring the background.  When you have a person in front of a blurry background there is a sizable amount of separation.  Your eyes do not get confused and tend to go directly to the subject.

I saw the door that is in the background and thought that it would make a fantastic backdrop for some portrait work.  I positioned the individual about ten feet in front and used a long lens with a wide open aperture.  This allowed me to compress and enlarge the background and blur it at the same time, providing excellent separation.


  1. That's very interesting. I've only got a point-and-shoot to work with and have often found it frustrating trying get the background that you see in real life into the photos. It seems to me that point-and-shoots get the background in focus but make everything look tiny and far away.

  2. You can still do this with a point and shoot but you have to be very aware of the background. If it is a "busy" background try moving around and/or changing the height of the camera. You can also get farther away from your subject and zoom in. That will keep the background from appearing tiny. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Jason,
    Funny, some point and shoots do have the capability to do the background blur. It's just called another feature.

    Great examples!

  4. I love this... love the rustic door and the glow on her face. I am curious - how far away from her were you?