You have probably all seen lots of beautiful portraits with people posing in front of soft, creamy, blurry backgrounds. For many people this is how professional portaits should be. And indeed, high levels of background blur and soft bokeh are reserved for the more expensive lenses and sensor formats. However, it is also possible to make great portraits without the need for this effect. Portraits where the complete image is sharp, which can be taken with any camera. In this article we will give you five different ways to do this.
1. Find a great scene
Find a great landscape, chase great lighting conditions. One way to think of it is that the photo should still be great if you would leave the model out. As is the case with the landscape in this picture. Then add the model to the composition in such a way that both parts of the picture complement each other, and form a balanced composition together.
2. Use a wall
When you think about it, this second tip makes a lot of sense. The goal of blurring the background in portraits, is to minimize distractions, and move the focus to the model instead. Another way to achieve this is to find a background that is naturally flat, clean and minimal. Obvious examples are a wall or a floor.
3. Tell a story
The third possibility is to have the background actually contribute to the portrait. This is a very powerful way to tell a story with your image, or put your subject in a certain context. It is not a coincidence that this technique is often used in journalism or travel photography, where storytelling is a key part.
4. Create a pattern
Another variation on using a wall behind your subject is to look for patterns to surround your subject with. These can often be found in nature, such as fields, flowers, or forests. But also outside of nature you have plenty of possibilities.
5. Make your subject pop
Finally, find a background that can make your subject pop. In this image there is a strong contrast between the model and the dark background in the back. Furthermore, the lighting, central placement and strong pose all put your attention on the model instead of the background.
shoot great portraits with your own camera
The goal of this post is to show you that blurred backgrounds are not the holy grail in portrait photography. All images above are strong images, each in its unique way. Theoretically all of them could be taken with a cheap camera or even a smartphone. Normal to wide-angle focal lengths with a large depth of field is the area where gear not matters too much anymore. So, go out there, and take great portraits yourself! Do you have any other tips? Please share them in the comments.