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Photo by Scott Bourne

If you want your photos to pop, make sure to adequately distance your subject from the background. The further from the background the better.

In the case of portraits, I try to maintain a minimum subject-to-background distance of six feet. 10 feet is optimal in most situations.

Of course focal length, lighting and lens aperture play a part in how the results look, but by having a starting point, you increase your chances for success.

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. I’ve been playing with portraiture lately as it’s considerably less forgiving than a (fairly) static landscape.

    I’ve learned this: A small aperture helps, this tends to put the lens in a place where it’s most sharp as well as having more of the subject in focus, though I still focus on the eyes. Because of the small aperture, you loose some of the background out-of-focus-ness, making Scott’s tip even more important.

    There is something to be said from softening all but the eyes of the subject in post production but this very much depends on the subject and the desired result. However, when I soften the the subject (less the eyes) I tend to also leave the background unsoftened. Depending on the lens (and it’s aperture blade geometry I guess) I find that softening out of focus areas can sometimes just look funny. Sometimes this make for considerably more post-production work, but hey, it’s part of the game.

  2. I’ve been playing with portraiture lately as it’s considerably less forgiving than a (fairly) static landscape.

    I’ve learned this: A small aperture helps, this tends to put the lens in a place where it’s most sharp as well as having more of the subject in focus, though I still focus on the eyes. Because of the small aperture, you loose some of the background out-of-focus-ness, making Scott’s tip even more important.

    There is something to be said from softening all but the eyes of the subject in post production but this very much depends on the subject and the desired result. However, when I soften the the subject (less the eyes) I tend to also leave the background unsoftened. Depending on the lens (and it’s aperture blade geometry I guess) I find that softening out of focus areas can sometimes just look funny. Sometimes this make for considerably more post-production work, but hey, it’s part of the game.

  3. @Joe R
    what your referring to in regards to the out of focus background is ‘bokeh’. it all depends on the characteristics of the lens, and varies significantly from model to model. some lenses (like my nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR) look fantastic, yet others produce a hideous pattern. bokeh is only really an issue at the wide end of the lens’ aperture though

  4. @Joe R
    what your referring to in regards to the out of focus background is ‘bokeh’. it all depends on the characteristics of the lens, and varies significantly from model to model. some lenses (like my nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR) look fantastic, yet others produce a hideous pattern. bokeh is only really an issue at the wide end of the lens’ aperture though

  5. Thanks scott for these tips. Portraits are my next frontier. Shooting landscapes and animals for me is getting boring, and people seem to be a challenge.

  6. Thanks scott for these tips. Portraits are my next frontier. Shooting landscapes and animals for me is getting boring, and people seem to be a challenge.

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