The importance of choice of the background – part II

This week I will look at what I did when I had not the choice of the background. One of the option is to blur the background either by using a large aperture or the longest possible focal lenght of your zoom.

In the Kestrel and Owl photos below, I had not the choice of background. I was at a birds of prey demonstration, we formed a circle around the falconer and she was passing the birds in front of us. Wherever I positionned myself, there was always someone in the background, and to top that, many were wearing bright colors.

I had my 70-300 mm f/4.5 lens and to solve the problem I used the longest focal length with the largest aperture possible to blur the background as much as I could. I setted my camera on aperture priority and chose the smallest f/number, extended the zoom. With a blurred background attention will on the subject on my photo, not the background. When I got home I was in for a surprise and a couple of F… words. They do this demonstration once time a year, last year I made a rookie mistake, this year my background was shitty. The photo below show how distracting those bright colors are.

So in order to reduce the effect of the colors, I tried the monochrome. I think monochrome is better at hidding the colors and help bringing the attention of the viewer on the bird and less on the background. First, I went with black and white and then sepia. The latter was better for the finish product.

But you have to be careful in using a long focal lenght on a zoom lens. Most of the zoom lens will not give the clearest image at their maximum, so choose a focal lenght that is less than the maximum. For example my 70-300 mm lens loose some “crispyness” in the details after 250 mm.

Another thing you can do to blur the background is put as much distance between your subject and the background. The greater the distance between the two, the blurrier your background will be, but again this is not always possible. It was in that situation with the photos below.

If you cannot or did not think blurring your background when you took the photo, you can still do it with a software in post-production but the result are never the same as the lens blurring.

Kestrel taken at close range at 270 mm-f/5.6 with my 70-300 mm lens


X-DSC_0034_22174 -1

Owl taken at close range at 145 mm-f/4.8 with my 70-300 mm lens

X-DSC_0115_22255 -1

X-DSC_0115_22255 -1

Here I was not able to put enough distance between the background and the owl to blur the background – taken @ 300 mm-f/5.6 with my 70-300 mm lens

DSC_0083_22223 -1

…. and the sepia finish gives poor results

DSC_0083_22223 -2b