Thursday, July 28, 2016

Blur That Background

By Cathy

Every day my inbox is full of random emails. Most I just delete, but there are some that I faithfully read, like the ones from Digital Photography School. Their web site has photo tips, tutorials, weekly photo prompts, reviews on cameras and equipment, post processing tips, and just a lot of good information. This week’s email led me to an article about bokeh. For those of you who are new to photography, bokeh is “the aesthetic quality of the blur, in the out-of-focus areas of an image.” (Wikipedia)

The article included a super easy way to get background bokeh. Since it was not a good day for me to be outside, the heat index was around 115, I thought I’d give their tip a try.  All I needed was aluminum foil, tape, small objects, and my camera.
I tore off a piece of foil (a little over two feet) and crumpled it into a loose ball; loose being the key word here. Then I carefully unrolled the ball. If you crumple the foil too tight into a ball, it will tear as you unroll it.  Don’t straighten it out too flat. Those hills and valleys are what catches the light. Speaking of light, I used a work light pointed toward the foil for extra sparkle. A flashlight would work for that, too.

Next, I taped the foil to a board. You could use a piece of cardboard or anything sturdy. One piece of foil didn’t give me enough background, so I taped another piece below and slightly under the top one. I used my fingers to crumple the two pieces together so the edge would not show.

Now, it’s time for the object to be photographed. I had to find a small object, because the foil background was not very big. The object, which I placed on a table, was about 30" from the background.

For the picture above I used my DSLR camera with a macro lens. I set  it on aperture priority and used the lowest setting it would allow,  f2.8. The lower the aperture number, the prettier the bokeh.

I know that not everyone has a macro lens or one that will allow you set the aperture that low, so I took the above picture with my Fuji point and shoot camera. The lowest aperture I could get was 4.8. It also gave a bokeh background, but it's just a little too distracting.
So . . . 

I used a piece of sheer fabric to drape over the foil. Problem solved! I liked it much better.

I began to wonder if would be possible to change the background color. It was. The pink tint in the above photo was made by placing a translucent pocket envelope in front of my work light. Voila!  Magical pink in the background.

I thought you might like to see my setup. There’s nothing fancy about it. I don’t have a studio, I just set up in the living room. I used two TV trays; one for the object and another for the work light. The board with foil is propped in a kitchen chair.

Experimenting with bokeh was a fun way to spend a hot morning. With me photography isn’t always serious. I find that If I’m constantly worrying about lens, camera settings, correct composition, and exposure, I take the joy right out of my photography.  Some days I just like to play and playing with my camera helps me learn to use it easily and quickly. Photography to me is all about the joy it gives me, not the perfect picture!

“Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph;
not searching for the unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.” 
~ Edward Weston

Enjoy your day and don’t forget to play!


Sandra said...

I love this posting, Cathy and that top image is just beautiful. I also love the needle and thread with the pink background.
I agree that photography has to remain fun and not heavy and too contrived. I also enjoy reading the Digital Photography School tips.
So interesting to see how you've made these photos!

AFishGirl said...

I am SO going to be doing this! Perfect for those of us not wanting to be out in the sun but indoors playing camera things. Thanks so much for the thorough tips, Cathy.

AFishGirl said...

I am SO going to be doing this! Perfect for those of us not wanting to be out in the sun but indoors playing camera things. Thanks so much for the thorough tips, Cathy.

heyjudephotography said...

What a fun post Cathy! You have created some beautiful photos that you should be very proud of! So simple, but so effective. Thanks for sharing this.

Dotti said...

This is great, Cathy! Still life is not my favorite type of photography because of all the time setups take and because I don't have room for a lot of props and backdrops but I can do this! All of your photos are beautiful. Do tell us about your work light.

CarolHart said...

This is brilliant! Thanks for sharing this awesome tip! I think I'm going to be going through a lot of foil in my future!

terriporter said...

Oh, Cathy, this is wonderful! You mean I can get sparkly bokeh indoors? This is the perfect fun project for a hot summer day! Your photos are amazing! Is the purple/blue in the top photo done the same way with a piece of colored transparency? And, as Dotti said, I'd like to know what type of light you used. I'm wondering if I can use my Ott-lite. I can't wait to try this out!

Rhadonda Sedgwick said...

I love when people share how they got the shot. Great tips!! Great photos!! I had heard of people using foil but never researched it. I'm convinced now and may even give it a try today! Thanks!!

Cathy H. said...

Dotti and Terri, thanks for your lovely comments. This was a very fun indoor project! About the light. It is an Ott-lite that just happens to be laying on its side so I could prop up the envelope. I light it because it is a good white light. Terri, the purple/blue in the first photo just happened to turn out that way; no transparency. I did have my white balance set on cool-white fluorescent, maybe that's what did it.

Sarah Huizenga said...

I loved this! What a great tip and thank you for sharing your set up with us. This winter when I am stuck indoors I will have to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

I love your simple setup on two TV trays and a kitchen chair. One of my frustrations with still life is not having any place to set up, but I could probably do that! I like your "marble" work surface, too. Great post, full of great tips! Thank you!!

Roxi Hardegree said...

Such a great tip! I imagine that less crumples will make bigger bokeh too.

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