The number one question I get from budding photographers is, "How do you make the background blurry?" so I thought it would be fun to share some pro tips with you! Let me start this lesson by stating that a beautiful photograph is much more than expensive equipment or a particular setting. It's about lighting, emotion, background and lots and lots of practice using the gear you have. It's taken me years to achieve this look so don't be too critical when you're getting started.
Secondly, I'm a stickler when I give camera lessons, because I usually only teach in Manual Mode (M), because this setting gives you absolute control over the outcome of the image, however I understand that it's taken me years to master this technique so here are the very basics to get you going.
1. Basically, the technique to achieve this "blurred" background is controlled by the Aperture setting (AV).
2. Instead of shooting in Auto (or green square) mode, switch the camera to AV (or person) mode.
3. Dial the aperture down to the lowest setting (refer to your manual). For most off-the-shelf cameras this is about 4.5. If it can go lower keep dialing down! For instance the above images were taken at an aperture between 2.8 and 1.6.
4. The average lens will stop at 4.5+/- and you'll find it frustrating because you'll want a softer background. Here's what I tell everyone... you're going to have to pony up about $400-500 for another lens, but I promise it will be one of the best investments! Canon's 50mm 1.4 is my all-time favorite lens. You can also find the similar style for Nikon. While you're at, get the lens filter to protect the lens - a wise investment!
5. Purchasing quality is always the best choice, and I always recommend purchasing the name brand, not a cheaper brand.
6. Just start playing around. Experiment around the house; dinner table, kids playing, flowering plants, etc. Have fun!!
7. And let me know how it goes!