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How to create blur backgound with Nikon D40x

Mihai Dorobantu , Dec 11, 2008; 02:34 p.m.

Hi everybody,
I bought a Nikon D40x few months ago (18-55mm lenses) and I'm still struggling to get blur background pictures. I'm new to photography but looking to learn.
For example I'm trying to take a picture of my son (6 feet away from the camera). There is a wall behind him (6 feet from him, 12 feet from camera). The picture is taken indoor, the light is coming from a regular bulb.
How should I set the camera in order to take a blur background picture? From the articles that I read I understood that I need to set a large aperture and a fast shutter speed. Is this correct?
If someone is nice enough to tell be the settings I'll appreciate that. What shutting mode do I need to use? Probably the Auto mode doesn't work.
Thank you.

How to retake this picture having a blur background?


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Terry O Connor , Dec 11, 2008; 03:03 p.m.

You need to be in Aperture priority with the largest aperture (smallest number) you can get for the focal length youre using.
So youre going to want to stay away from the likes of f22 and select f4 or f2 ...or whatever the lowest number is that you can get ....
So assuming youre at about 35mm select the widest aperture you can..thats prob about F4 or so....lock focus on your childs eyes..frame the pic an click away..
This will give you a nice narrow field of focus and should blur the wall behind.
Check out this website....select your camera and various settings and it'll tell you what the depth of field will be

Epp B , Dec 11, 2008; 03:06 p.m.

Terry, I'm guessing he probably shot in in Auto or Program Mode and, since it is a dark setting, the camera will have automatically selected the widest available aperture and a 1/60th shutter.
It would be helpful if you gave us the EXIF data on that image, but I'll start where I can...

What you are looking to get is called a shallow depth of field (DOF), or the amount of the area in a photo that is in focus. DOF is controlled by the aperture: the wide the aperture (a lower f/number) the narrower the depth of field. The smaller the aperture (a higher f/number), the larger the depth of field.

However, focal length also affects the depth of field. The closer you get to your subject (either physically or with focal length), the more you can isolate the subject from the background. Longer focal lengths have narrower depths of the fields for the same apertures than wider focal lengths.

The 18-55 kit lens isn't ideal for achieving this effect. You would need to be fairly close to your subject, zoomed out to 55mm at the widest available aperture (f/5.6). Put your camera in A mode ([b]A[/b]perture Priority), turn the control dial leftwards until you have the widest available aperture selected, zoom the lens out to 55mm and fill the frame with only your child's head to see what I mean (of course, you might want to hold a piece of tin foil 45 degrees upward in front of the flash to bounce it off the ceiling and also set your flash to manual full power; otherwise your baby will not be very happy ;))

The best way to achieve the effect you're looking for is to buy a fast prime (a fixed focal length lens with a wide aperture). The Nikon 50mm f/1.8D is a great place to start. It's probably Nikon's best lens for the price. It's a fantastic quality fast prime at less than $150, however, it will not autofocus with the D40. Manually focusing on a crop frame DSLR is tricky for moving subjects. Not impossible, but patience-testing.

If you can afford it, consider the new AF-S 50mm f/1.4G instead, which is a bit faster still and does autofocus with the D40.

A third option is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. This will give you a similar field of view and speed as a 50mm f/1.8 on a film camera, which is about the same as your eye "sees". This lens will also autofocus on the D40.

If you can get far enough away, you can also do this effect with a longer focal length, even if it isn't a particularly big aperture. The Nikon AF-S 55-200 VR does this quite well near the long end at f/5.6. However, in this situation where you probably don't have enough space for that, the afforementioned primes would work better for this.

Lil Judd , Dec 11, 2008; 03:39 p.m.

You can easily do it in post. If you want to do it in camera - f/4 would do it or lower. But you have to set the camera to do it by using Aperture mode.
Still, you can easily blur this in post, though in camera would be better.

Lil :-)

Mihai Dorobantu , Dec 11, 2008; 04:06 p.m.

Thanks a lot for all your answers.
Once I reach home I'll start playing with the camera.
I'll share the results with you :)
I know how to do this using Photoshop but I preffer to use my Nikon and do everything from the very beggining.

Shuo Zhao , Dec 11, 2008; 04:10 p.m.

>> "I know how to do this using Photoshop but I preffer to use my Nikon and do everything from the very beggining."

If that's the case, then you might want to invest in a fast lens. The 50 f/1.8 is a good place to start. It's a good lens and you won't be disappointed.

Albert Darmali , Dec 11, 2008; 04:49 p.m.

But the thing is the 50mm 1.8 won't AF with her camera and for shooting baby, manual focus especially AF lens combined with D40, will be a pain.
With your current kit lens it will be difficult too since at 50mm it's only go up to f/5.6. I think the best way really is like what others have mentioned, get a new fast lens. You don't really need to have f/1.8 or lower, even a constant f/2.8 lens will do, and make sure you get the one that has a built-in motor for your camera.
Once you acquire that, you just need to set the camera in A mode, use f/2.8, and you can have the effect.

Paul E , Dec 11, 2008; 07:53 p.m.

The 50mm f/1.8 won't AF, but the D40 has a green dot in the viewfinder to tell you when the shot is in focus manually. Probably the D40x too. The 50mm 1.8 is a good value, but you might look for a sigma HSM lens with an internal motor that will autofocus. Maybe Nikon is coming out with some primes too, but I haven't been looking. Nikon's f/2.8 zooms will also work, but are quite expensive. Here is a shot with the 50mm 1.8 and the D40. The out of focus quality is ok, not great, but it would probably do what you want for $120.

50mm f/1.8 example with D40

Ramon V (California) , Dec 11, 2008; 08:20 p.m.

without buying anything, terry's suggestion will do the trick. have fun.

Hansen Tsang , Dec 11, 2008; 09:31 p.m.

Pretty hard with the kit zoom. You need a lens with a much wider aperture. I suggest the Sigma 30 mm f1.4 also.

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