Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I go into a lot of detail and show examples in my classes on the subject of "exposure." For me, the "correct" exposure is my desired exposure. I always ask myself, "What do I want this to look like?" The answer to that question determines what I decide to do with my exposure to get the desired result.

Such was the case when I saw these great colorful tulips on a nice afternoon on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado. It was late afternoon. Some of the tulips, the ones in the background, were already in the shadows of surrounding buildings. The tulips in the foreground were still receiving nice sunlight and thus brilliant in color. I knew from experience that the light range between the tulips in the shadows and the ones in sunlight was too great and could cause exposure issues. In this type of lighting, it is very easy to either have the foreground terribly over exposed or have the background virtually disappear into darkness.

When I applied my artistic approach to the scenario, I could imagine the front tulips being nicely and colorfully exposed and the background tulips as subtle backdrops.

So, what to do? I chose to spot meter on the tulips in the foreground, then used my exposure compensation dial to fine-tune the image. And this is the result I got. During one of my slide presentations, one of my guests made the comment, "It looks like you photographed some tulips, with a mural of tulips on a wall in the background." 

Next time you see this lighting condition, try this easy technique. Have fun with it!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How To Create Blurred Backgrounds


This is just one of many techniques I teach in my "Beginning Digital Photography" class at Arapahoe Community College in the Denver area. Here are some key steps to get blurred results like in the image below of a friend's saxophone.

First, there are three factors that will determine the final effects of your blurred backgrounds.
A) The f/stop you choose-- an f/2.8-f/5.6 range works best.
B) The distance from your subject--the closer you are, the more blurred the background.
C) The distance of the nearest object behind your subject. If it is too close to  your subject, 
blurring it becomes a bit of a challenge, but f/2.8 or f/3.5 might still work. If it doesn't, then 
some careful "selective focusing" might do the trick. E-mail me if you need more information on that really cool technique!

 So, given the above information, here are the steps to get those nice blurred backgrounds.
 (for best results, use a tripod and set your focusing to manual focusing)
 1) Determine your composition
 2) Check your exposure--take some test shots
 3) Decide on your focusing point--usually, not always, right on your main/nearest subject
 4) Set desired f/stop. Take a test shot--adjust your f/stop and/or focusing point if necessary
 5) Re-take your shot
 6) And there you have it! Fun, huh?

I have several images with blurred backgrounds in my Abstracts/Close-ups page on my site.

In the image below, you can almost see where my focusing point was (approximately 1/3-1/2 from the top of my viewfinder), using a very shallow f/stop of f/2.8 in order to get really dramatic effects.