Tips on getting a blurred background?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by john_e|2, May 8, 2011.

  1. I"m trying to take portraits and get the blurred background effect.
    I'm looking to buy a lens that is fast enough so I can blur the backgrounds. Will the 85mm 1.8 do the job? I'll be shooting up close like waist up or head and shoulders, but I'd also like to shoot full. Is there any other way to trick the camer to blur the background? I've tried photoshoping but it doesn't look as good as naturally blurred. I'm using a nikon D70. I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a lens but is it worth the extra money to get a 1.4 instead of 1.8 lens?
     
  2. Hi John,
    Even the cheaper 50mm 1.8 would do nice bokeh. The trick is to ensure that you place sufficient distance from the subject to the backdrop. Then choose a shallow depth of field. F1.8 lens around one stop closed down should give you nice bokeh.
     
  3. 50mm 1.8 would do nice bokeh​
    The Nikon 50 1.8 is known to have a very harsh (bad) bokeh. However it does have a shallow depth of field wide open.
     
  4. the 1.8 is fine. you can end up w/ a situation w/ the 1.4 where one eye is in focus and the other is out and that is something to be avoided. Dont forget that it's also a function of background separation and something called hyperfocal distance (so you could short focus and appear to have a more out of focus background)
     
  5. I've owned the 85mm f/1.8, which I liked very much, but I finally decided to move to the 85mm f/1.4D (not the most recent one, which is a G lens.) There is a good discussion of the out of focus properties of the two lenses, as well as some others, in this thread. Whether you want to pay about three times more for the characteristics of the 85mm f/1.4D, or even more the 85mm f/1.4G, is up to you.
    Howard's concern that the f/1.4 will have depth of field which only allows one eye to be in focus can be dealt with by stopping the lens down. You don't have to shoot it wide open.
     
  6. I was simply pointing out that 1.4 wasn't needed ($$) and many times not even wanted (besides the fact that you'd most often stop down a bit anyway)
     
  7. " Is there any other way to trick the camera to blur the background?" Blurring the background is not a 'trick' The more distance there is between the subject and background, the more blurry the background will be. Longer lenses and faster aperture lenses need less distance between the subject and the background than wider, slower aperture lenses.
    What lenses do you have now and what exactly is your budget? And how much room do you have to work with where you are shooting? On a limited budget with a reasonable working area, both the 85mm f1.8 or perhaps the 105mm f2.8 (non VR version used) would be good choices, cost about $400 and likely do a great job for you.
    "The Nikon 50 1.8 is known to have a very harsh (bad) bokeh" Not what I have heard.
     
  8. Not what I have heard.​
    Alas, it's pretty easy to demonstrate. It's true. But then, if you can choose your background content to minimize the presence of high contrast items, spectral reflections or light sources, it eases things quite a bit.
     
  9. Hey John.
    The thread is getting confusing. People are tossing out the term "bokeh". There are two aspects to background blur, how much you have, and how "natural" it looks. That second aspect is the "bokeh", the "quality" of the blur, as opposed to the quantity. Any f2.0 or faster lens will give you a large enough "quantity" of blur with most backgrounds, even if your subject is only 60cm (2 ft) in front of the background. For most "real world" shooting, when you can get your subject a meter (around 3ft) from the background, even f2.8 works. The big question is how does that blurred background look. It could be full of sharp edges, double lines, and other things that make it look "harsh", "busy", or "distracting".
    The 50mm f1.8 can deliver the quantity, but personally, I'm not all that fond its bokeh, and do find it quite harsh, as is typical of pretty much all lenses of similar design (Nikon, Zeiss, etc. 50mm f1.8 or f1.4). But that's not the real problem...
    You've stated a need, pleasing blurred backgrounds on a D70 with head and shoulders or full length shots. That means you need 2 lenses, and there's pretty much no getting around that.
    Head and shoulders is 60cm (24 inches tall) and is usually an 8x10 aspect. On a D70, working at 2 meters (touch over 6ft) that's a 64mm lens. Working at 3 meters (10 feet), it's a 96mm lens. That makes 80mm the "perfect" lens, and 85mm "dang close".
    • If you need autofocus, the Nikon 85mm f1.8 is a good $300 (if memory serves) lens with a lot better bokeh than a 50mm f1.8.
    • If (and this is a big "if") you are comfortable with manual focus, the Samyang (aka "Polaris" or "Vivitar") 85mm f1.4 has great bokeh, in the same class as the Nikon 85mm f1.4, but the Samyang only costs $350, instead of $1,500.
    • Another manual focus lens to look at is the Voigtlander 58mm f1.4. It's a tad short, you'll be on the inside edge of 2m from your subject, or frame just a touch more "open" and back up to 2m.
    • If you're not in a hurry, Voigtander announced a 75mm f1.8 that should be a killer portrait lens. Give it another month or two, and $400.
    • If you're comfortable at a bit of a distance, say 3.3m (11ft), the old manual focus Nikon 105mm f2.5 Ai-S has exceptional bokeh. It can be had for about $150, and you need to have a "dandelion chip" installed to get it to meter on a D70, which is about another $60. Still, for a touch over $200, you get world class results, right up there with $1500 monsters like the 85mm f1.4.
    Can we do it with a 50mm? I'd call a 50mm way short for a head and shoulders. That will have you at 1.56cm (5ft), and you get rather unnatural proportions, nose too big in relation to ears, etc. You're also a bit closer than most subjects are comfortable with, so you get uncomfortable expressions. Really, you want to be between 2m and 3m.
    OK, how about full length. You're framing 2m (subject and a little headroom) at that sale 2-3m, and you're probably keeping the whole 2:3 frame of the D70. That's a 24mm lens at 2m, and a 36mm lens at 3m. So, 30mm is the "perfect" lens. It's hard to get a lot of blur at that focal length, and even harder to get good bokeh.
    • Nikons 35mm f1.8 is worth looking at, but it's, at best, "medium" bokeh.
    • There's a "killer" lens right in the middle of the range you want to look at, the Sigma 30mm f1.4. It's autofocus, and pretty high quality, but Sigma construction tends to be hit and miss. My own Sigma 30mm f1.4 needed to go in to repair. But it's the best looking full length lens you can get for an APS Nikon.
    • I'm rather fond of the manual focus 40mm f2.0 Voigtlander Ultron.
    Again, the 50mm is going to feel awkward, you'll be at least 4m (13ft) from your subject.
    Consider a decent f2.8 "full frame normal zoom", a 24-70mm f2.8 or thereabouts. The Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 is quite respectable in this range, has "neutral" bokeh, and is relatively cheap, especially if you go for a used one. Aside from that, the best solution is two primes, one around 30mm, the other around 80mm.
    wizfaq portrait lens
     
  10. I shoot tons of street portraits with a 35mm f/1.4 on a full-frame. It's perfect for me. No need to yada
    yada any more than that - it gives me a lot of flexibility...
     
  11. I would take a hard look at the 50mm f/1.4 D. I have found it is wonderful for just what you are looking for and It will not break the bank to buy it. I also have the 85 1.8 and love it as well.
    -Cheers
     
  12. The 85mm is too long for anything but head and shoulder shots on DX cameras
     
  13. I prefer the bokeh of the 50 f1.4 versions over the f1.8... which I consider my worst bokeh lens (at least wide open), as well as my sharpest 50.
    It`s funny to check Elliot`s link; certainly if those pics has been taken with the 1.8 version they don`t look that bad; but in my own experience (with the 50/1.8AFD and another three f1.4 Nikkor versions), if you don`t care about selecting the background, specially avoiding specular highlights (spots, lines) it`s so easy to get ugly results.
    From what I have seen (I have never used nor touched one), fast Sigmas have a great bokeh... at the expense of side-corner rendition. Not an issue (even maybe a benefit) if you look for subject isolation at wide apertures (portrait), bad if you want even sharpness across the frame (e.g. landscape).
    As Joseph mention, it`s all about shooting distance. First choose the perspective you like (shooting distance), then look for the lens that covers the desired framing. There is not a fixed nor optimal focal lenght for that task. It is simply the lens that suit that viewing angle in the used format. Many people (I believe) don`t care about the perspective; they simply zoom from their position to frame the subject with more or less tightness... it is not bad at all if the aim is simply to get the shot, or to have an specific background, or whatever but always at the expense of the subject`s look.
    And I`d like to remark the wide open DoF issue... I also don`t find pleasant most of that kind of close portraits, lean head, with only one eye in focus. To have both eyes in focus and with good sharpness I usually like to stop the lens down to f4 or f5.6. To shoot wide open I always try to have both eyes in the same plane (but I also use to find distracting a too much blured nose).
     
  14. I'll be shooting up close like waist up or head and shoulders, but I'd also like to shoot full.​
    agree with leslie; the 85 is too long for full. i'm also not crazy about the 50/1.8's bokeh. what you want is something like the 35/1.8 or the sigma 30 (which has much better blur IMO than the nikon) AND the voigtlander 58/1.4 or the tamron 60/2. a 24-70 or 28-75 would also cover those focal ranges but gives you less latitude than a fast prime since those start at 2.8. the tamron previously mentioned is a decent option. i would also look into the sigma 50-150, which has better bokeh than the tamron. it's actually a pretty killer portrait lens on DX, since it covers the entire portrait range. obviously, a 30 or 35 goes wider. for street shooting, i like the sigma 30.
    00YhSf-356653584.jpg
     
  15. The 85mm is only too long for a full length shot if you don't have the working distance. One of my favorite portrait lenses is the 70-200mm, using it on the long end. But you have to have a fair amount of distance in front of the subject. Even the 55-200mm or other long Nikon zooms will blur backgrounds on the long end if there is enough distance between the subject and the background.
     
  16. If you are doing portraits in a controlled environment, the manual focus options will be quite usable. I use an old old 105mm f2.5 AI lens outside and get great results and wonderful bokeh between 2.5 and 4.
    If your subject is moving much, those options are worse than worthless, however.
     
  17. "Will the 85mm 1.8 do the job?"​
    Yes. I use the 85/2 and 105/2.5 manual focus Nikkors routinely with my DX format dSLR (they meter with the D2H and several other, but not all, Nikons). They're just fine for head-and-torso and head-and-shoulders portraits. All that matters is the working distance.
    "The Nikon 50 1.8 is known to have a very harsh (bad) bokeh."​
    Not to me. Depends on the background. It's fine with some backgrounds and a little harsh with others, but it's never "bad". There are better 50mm lenses out there, tho'. You wanna see bad? I'll try to find some samples from my 70-210mm f/2.8-4 Vivitar Series 1. Holy nisen-bokeh, Batman. Great value, but I really need to be conscious of backgrounds when using it.
    Pony up for the 50mm f/1.4 if the budget allows. I don't get as much use from my 50/1.8D AF Nikkor as I'd anticipated. With older Nikon dSLRs like your D70 and my D2H, we need all the speed with can get to avoid cranking up the ISO into noisy territory. Yes, the difference between f/1.4 and f/1.8 does matter in this case. I'd probably get even more use from an f/1.2 than an f/1.4 in the 50-58mm range, but it's manual focus only given the limited selection of f/1.2 lenses for Nikons.
    "The 85mm is too long for anything but head and shoulder shots on DX cameras"​
    And my legs are too long. They won't fit under my desk. Oh, wait, I just needed to pull the chair back a bit.
    Some of you folks sound like your feet are nailed to the floor.
     
  18. The 85mm is only too long for a full length shot if you don't have the working distance. One of my favorite portrait lenses is the 70-200mm, using it on the long end. But you have to have a fair amount of distance in front of the subject. Even the 55-200mm or other long Nikon zooms will blur backgrounds on the long end if there is enough distance between the subject and the background.​
    ok sure, i was generalizing. if you have enough working distance you can use a 300mm as a portrait lens. and the 50-150 on DX acts like a 75-225. but the OP specifically said "I'm shooting close-up" which suggests 85 on DX might indeed be too long. if you want the classic portrait length on DX, the 58/1.4 and 60/2 give you that. but if you want to cover head and shoulders as well as full body, you're either looking at two primes or a midrange zoom. when i've shot the 28-75 on DX, i've found it works well as a portrait lens if i also want to mix in some wider shots.
     
  19. John,
    mm, Lots of good advice, a lot depends on what you want to shoot in which circumstances..
    But first let me ask you, what lens(es) do you already own... ?
    ( you may already have a good portrait lens but maybe you need advice on how to use it for what you want...).
     
  20. Eric, he didn't say "I'm shooting close-up". What he said is "I'll be shooting up close like waist up or head and shoulders". I don't believe he was referring to how much working room he had to shoot, rather I believe based on his complete sentence that he was indicating what type of portrait he was taking, as in upper body. Or full length. John will need to clarify.
     
  21. AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D
     
  22. I also read the OP as Eric had, close up but maybe he has a working distance as in the other side of the house or mansion instead of a normal sized room, who knows? Sure, 600mm portrait from waaaay down the street...
     
  23. Depth of Field Explained
    http://vimeo.com/1136116
     
  24. John -
    The 85 mm f1.8 (newest version) can be for for right around 350-400 used. I use it on both a D700 and D7000 and get excellant Bokeah with it for about 1/3 the price of the 1.4.
    Another consideration may be a 28-70 f2.8 zoom - again - nice Bokeah - at a cheaper price than the newer 24-70 f2.8.
    I have the 50 f1.8 - and it also does the trick - but I just don't like the feel of it on a D700, but if budget is a limiter - then this is the way to go.
    Dave
     
  25. >>> I'll be shooting up close like waist up or head and shoulders". I don't believe he was referring to how much
    working room he had to shoot, ...

    I think most people would read "up close" as subject distance. Which brings up a very important and crucial
    point for good portraiture; subject engagement. For me, the relationship between subject and
    photographer/camera is crucial.

    I couldn't imagine using an 85mm on a crop-body camera (130mm equiv). That would be much too far away. I
    like working in the 4 - 12 foot range for my kind of street portraiture. It lets me easily engage with subjects by
    establishing an easy two-way relationship.

    For me, little/no engagement = boring portraiture. And thats much more important and trumps small differences in background blur over various lenses.
     
  26. And it's in these situations that I envy the 50mm and 85mm f1.2 autofocus lenses from Canon. I just love that super shallow DOF in some portaraits of people.
     
  27. For me, little/no engagement = boring portraiture.​
    agree 100%. that's one reason why i like a 30 or 35 for candid shots. here's a shot from last weekend.
    00YhZq-356785584.jpg
     
  28. For the OP... I'm quite happy with the portraits I get with my Nikkor 50's on DX cameras, either the 1.4 or the 1.8. It's nice for head-shoulders portraits from across the dinner table, for example. Should be good with your D70.
     
  29. With a crop sensor like yours I'd go with a 50mm lens. Depending on budget and preferences you could then get either the 1.4 or 1.8 version. There are some nice third-party manufacturers out there for that. The 85mm should be nice as well though. Can't really go wrong either way I'd say.
     
  30. Actually, I don't see how any lens recommendation can be made since the OP didn't mention the kind of portraiture he wanted to engage in. Headshot, environmental, studio, etc?
    Just as an example, a 35mm on a crop-body would probably be too long most of the time for the portraiture I do. A 50 most definitely would. And an 85 would be an absolute no way.
    Again as an example, for *my* specific needs, which is street portraiture, and where subject engagement is really important, a 35mm (in this case on a full-frame body) is ideal putting me at a decent working distance. Can't speak for anyone else not knowing what kind of portraiture they want to shoot. That doesn't mean other focal lengths would be impossible. Just not an ideal choice the majority of the time; especially if it puts me in the street with traffic. If I were doing headshots most of the time, then I'd pick something longer.
     
  31. Did anyone mention aperture priority mode? AV ?
     
  32. not an ideal choice the majority of the time; especially if it puts me in the street with traffic.​
    oh c'mon brad, what's street photography without a little danger?
    00YhgJ-356915584.jpg
     
  33. I'm looking to buy a lens that is fast enough so I can blur the backgrounds. Will the 85mm 1.8 do the job?​
    Yes.
    Is there any other way to trick the camer to blur the background?​
    No.
    I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a lens but is it worth the extra money to get a 1.4 instead of 1.8 lens?​
    Depends on how picky you are about the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus background, especially specular highlights.
     
  34. As Brad- says, the OP needs to describe in more detail what kind of portraiture he is doing, such as studio, outside, environmental, etc. The lens choices vary with each type of situation.
     
  35. As Brad- says, the OP needs to describe in more detail what kind of portraiture he is doing, such as studio, outside, environmental, etc. The lens choices vary with each type of situation.​
    Agreed. Without a context of the situation and the desired results, discussions can be very confusing and misleading. But this OP should not be singled out, the vast majority of PN's postings are like this.
     
  36. Darn. Now I want a Voigtlander 75/1.8. I love 75mm on full frame.
     
  37. Sorry John.
    Looks like I accidentally sucked you into my Voigtlander cult...
     
  38. OK here's an example
    00Yjat-358867584.jpg
     
  39. this one with the 105mm
    00Yjav-358869584.jpg
     
  40. two people
    00Yjay-358871684.jpg
     
  41. another with the 50 1.8
    00Yjb3-358873584.jpg
     
  42. Tips on getting a blurred background?​
    1. As you already know, the larger the aperture, the shallower the depth-of-field.
    2. The closer the focus distance, the greater the area in the background appears out of focus.
    3. The further away your background is from your subject, the easier it is to throw it out of focus.
    To summarize, shoot as wide open as is practical. Place your subject as close to camera as is practical. Find a background that is as far away as possible.
     
  43. John asked:
    I"m trying to take portraits and get the blurred background effect. I'm looking to buy a lens that is fast enough so I can blur the backgrounds. Will the 85mm 1.8 do the job? I'll be shooting up close like waist up or head and shoulders, but I'd also like to shoot full . . .​
    Well, regarding your specific questions (I previously replied to the post topic only), you already have lots of advice here, but I'll add even more! I think the bokeh from an 85mm f/1.8 looks great, even on a DX body:
    [​IMG]
    Nikon D90; AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D
    While both the 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 are capable of throwing the background out of focus rather easily as well, their characterisitic bokeh on speculars is a bit "tight," and may not be to your liking. As far as shooting full-length shots with the background out of focus, try to find a background that is really far away.
     
  44. John also asked:
    I don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a lens but is it worth the extra money to get a 1.4 instead of 1.8 lens?​
    Yes, the 85mm f/1.4 is prettier, but the f/1.8 is a close second, especially on a DX body, due to the "longer" 1.5x crop factor. For most, the 85mm f/1.4 probably isn't worth its high price tag. For the money, the 85mm f/1.8 is the best bang-for-the-buck portrait lens of the bunch. If choosing the 50mm instead, I think having the f/1.4 version of this lens in your bag is totally worth it for shooting in low light (everyone should have at least one f/1.4 lens!).
     
  45. Joseph said . . .
    If you're comfortable at a bit of a distance, say 3.3m (11ft), the old manual focus Nikon 105mm f2.5 Ai-S has exceptional bokeh.​
    I'm aware that the 105mm f/2.5 has a lot of fans, but why? Because it's a bargain? Aren't the AI-S 105mm f/1.8D and AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2.0D going to serve the shallow depth-of-field seeker better than an f/2.5 lens? (I have both the AI-S f/1.8 105mm and the f/2.0 105mm, but have never tried the famed f/2.5 105mm.) It'd be great to see a "shoot out" among the three.
    He also mentioned . . .
    • Another manual focus lens to look at is the Voigtlander 58mm f1.4. It's a tad short, you'll be on the inside edge of 2m from your subject, or frame just a touch more "open" and back up to 2m.
    • If you're not in a hurry, Voigtander announced a 75mm f1.8 that should be a killer portrait lens. Give it another month or two, and $400.
    Joseph, you're beginning to pique my interest in those Voigtlanders as well. How's their sharpness compared with Nikon's fare?
     

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