3 Tips for How to Get a Blurry Background & Fall Leaf Fun

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I sent the girls out back to play for a few minutes after lunch the other day. The weather was perfect. Warm & windy. Leaves blowing everywhere from our beautiful bright orange trees. We have a huge yard and these trees manage to COVER the entire thing with leaves.

I watched them from the window over the sink, their giggles in the background of my mundane dish-washing routine that seems to occur 3, 4, or 10 times a day.

They were throwing leaves at each other and bursting into laughter. This hymn came to mind:

Summer and winter, springtime, and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed, thy hand has provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Sometimes I have to choose gratefulness in the mundane. Grateful for kids to wash dishes for. Grateful for kids to do laundry for, even if they’re driving me crazy.

But sometimes, gratefulness washes over me and I can’t help it. My heart feels like it might explode with gratitude. This was one of those moments.

Once I wiped away my emotional mommy tears and finished the dishes, I went outside with my fancy camera. By some miracle, they didn’t run away or stop smiling…. as long as I kept throwing leaves at them, they sat and smiled. Haha! Kids are weird 🙂

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I love that last one. They just love to make each other laugh. Addie says, “Emma’s making me funny, Mommy.”

They are playing together more these days, and I get these glimpses of their sweet sister relationship that I pray will grow stronger and deeper over many years. (Of course they also know how to drive each other nuts. Lately it’s fighting over the light switch on the stairs. Emma can reach it now. She’s 1. She likes to flip it on and off. Addie is almost 3 and has some OCD tendencies. Why the heck would anyone want to turn it on and off, she thinks. 30 minutes before these smiley pictures were taken, they were fighting over the light and sent to their separate rooms for time out. But I forgot to take a picture, so you just get the happy leafy ones. Gotta keep it real, friends.)

This child. Sometimes I call her a toddler, but I’m pretty sure she turned into a girl one day while I was blinking.

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And this one. Good gracious.

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That second expression captures her personality so well.

Okay, so the title promised tips on how to get a blurry background in your pictures. I’ll stop gushing over my kids (I see your eye rolls) and get on with it already.

I am no professional photographer, not by a long shot. More of an Amateur Mom Photographer (AMP). But, as you may have noticed on this blog, I’ve taken a picture or two over the last 3 years since I got my “fancy” camera & lenses. And from some reading, learning, and experimenting, I’ve started to figure out some tricks for getting great shots. More end up fuzzy, or poorly framed than not. But hey, as long as you get 1 or 2 good ones, that’s a win, right.

What you need to learn how to get a blurry background:

  • A camera with a manual setting. You can use these blurry background tricks on any camera that allows you to take pictures in a manual setting. My old $200 pocket sized point and shoot had a manual setting, so you don’t have to have a DSLR to do this. (I don’t know how to get a blurry background on a phone though… i think you can buy lenses to attach to your phone or maybe there’s an app for that?)
  • Outside cloudy lighting or shade. If there is sunlight, the sunlight should not be right behind your subject or shining directly on your subject.
  • A person or thing that will be still. If you’ve never done this before, I wouldn’t suggest a toddler as your test subject as they tend to be squirmy 😉 An older kid or spouse or friend who can be bribed with candy is great. Or any inanimate object will do.

 AMP Blurry Background Tip #1: Low aperture / f number.

Somewhere on your camera, there is a number next to an “f.” This number is called the f-stop and represents the aperture. Aperture is how much light you’re letting into your camera. The lower the number is, the bigger the light hole is, the more light you’re letting in.

Figure out how to adjust this number on your camera, and then make the f number as low as possible. It’s easiest to learn this technique outside, but if you have a lens with an f number that goes below 2.5, you can probably practice this inside even in bad lighting.

Mine was at f/2.8 for this shot.

fall leaf fun & how to get that blurry background in pictures

AMP Blurry Background Tip #2: Get close to the subject

Whatever or whomever you want to be in focus needs to be pretty close to your camera if you want the background to be blurry.

The closer your subject is to the camera, the blurrier more of the background will be.

Have autofocus on, focus in on your subject, then click. Most cameras have a millisecond of focusing required where you half hold down the button before clicking it all the way.

fall leaf fun & how to get that blurry background in pictures

AMP Blurry Background Tips #3: Use The Meter

If your picture is way too dark or light, find the meter on your camera. You can usually see it in your viewfinder/ window as well as on the back of your screen. It will look something like this on the screen:


And something like this through the view finder (the little thing you look through):


You want the little line underneath the meter to be close to the zero. There is a dial somewhere on your camera that will adjust that line while you’re in manual mode. Experiment until you figure out how to do this. Once you know how to get the line to move, you can adjust it quickly in real time while you’re taking pictures.

I sometimes like the line to be slightly more towards “over exposed” which makes the picture a little brighter than darker. On a canon, brighter is to the right. On a nikon, brighter is to the left. Not sure about other brands of cameras. To experiment with this, just twist your dial a lot to get the line to move, then take a picture and look at it on your screen. If it’s totally bright, that’s over exposed. If it’s totally dark, that’s underexposed.

This little meter is a great ‘cheat’ for knowing if your camera is on the right setting for whatever the lighting is that you have to work with.

The first time I tried this, I used Ben as my subject and took 50 pictures. The sun was right behind him and I didn’t know that was a no-no, so they all turned out terrible. Don’t get discouraged! Let me know if you give this a try and if you have any questions or if you have pictures of your practice sessions to share! The nerdy teacher in me loves to see people’s learning 🙂

Good luck & happy shooting!

How to get a blurry background. One of the posts in my mom-photographer series. Learn how to take better pictures of your kids with this one easy tip - turn off auto and blur the background :) http://wp.me/p6bl1n-LL

5 thoughts on “3 Tips for How to Get a Blurry Background & Fall Leaf Fun”

  1. The comments on my site are turned off now, but I'd love to hear from you on Instagram! Follow me there & tag me in a comment or DM me. Xo I'm @MrsReneeCook on Instagram!
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  3. if it has manual, you should be able to adjust that f/ number 🙂 good luck!! (often point and shoots don’t go super low for the f/ number. and the lower the f/ the blurrier the background will be. but just get them as close to the camera as possible and hopefully you’ll get some blur!!)

  4. Great tips! I’m going to check out whether this works on my point and shoot camera, it does have a manual setting but I don’t have a clue how to use it. I’ve already been out and about trying to capture shots of the beautiful autumn colours but hopefully I can get a few more of the kids using these tips.


  5. Maria, I’m so glad you found this too!!! It took me over a year to feel comfortable using my DSLR and another year to feel like I get pretty good shots a lot of the time! Stay tuned for a few other photo tip posts coming soon too 😉

    If your daughter is little, I suggest practicing in the fall leaves with a kids slide, or some sort of object you can use to stand in her place. Then pop her in once it looks good. Don’t hesitate to reply here again if you have questions or to use the contact me form to email me 🙂 Good luck!! Hope you get a great picture!

  6. These are fantastic tips! I recently bought an dslr camera and have been meaning to take some great fall photos of my daughter with the very same background you described. I’m still learning my way through the manual setting of my camera, and your tips cam just in time! Thanks so much for sharing. Glad I found you on Ladies Collecting Link up this week!

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