Pho­to: Hec­tor Gar­cia / flickr.com

Do you think that the pres­ence of bokeh auto­mat­i­cal­ly makes a pho­to beau­ti­ful, so you shoot wide open all the time? It’s time to rethink your beliefs. There will be a lot of sit­u­a­tions where you will have to close down the aper­ture, but it won’t affect the aes­thet­ics of the shot if you fol­low a few sim­ple tips. We have trans­lat­ed for you an arti­cle by Fil­ipino pho­tog­ra­ph­er Kebs Kayabi­a­ba, in which he tells how to effec­tive­ly sep­a­rate the mod­el (or any oth­er object) from the back­ground in street and por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy.

Source: Youtube chan­nel Kebs Cayabyab

Once upon a time, I only shot wide open, and it real­ly hin­dered my progress. The kit lens I bought with the cam­era was­n’t very fast, so I only got nice­ly blurred back­grounds or creamy bokeh when the sub­ject was close to the cam­era.

I got excit­ed every time I took a street pho­to with a blur­ry back­ground, so as soon as I got my hands on an f/2 lens, I start­ed con­stant­ly shoot­ing at max­i­mum aper­ture to get a blur­ry back­ground. I shot wide open all the time and just stopped learn­ing new things.

Back then, I thought that a good pho­to must have a well-blurred back­ground, but, of course, this is not always the case.

Shoot­ing with a shal­low depth of field makes it easy to sep­a­rate the sub­ject from the back­ground, but if you always rely only on it, you will be very lim­it­ed, includ­ing in com­po­si­tion options.

Here are a few more ways to effec­tive­ly sep­a­rate the sub­ject from the back­ground:

1. Lighting

We can use con­trast to guide the view­er’s eye through the pho­to. You can make the sub­ject well lit, while the back­ground is under­ex­posed.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

Alter­na­tive­ly, we can have a well lit back­ground and an under­ex­posed sub­ject.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

2. Colors

We can use col­or har­mo­ny. Bright col­ors will be dif­fer­ent from mut­ed tones.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

Also, don’t for­get about com­ple­men­tary col­ors. A per­son in red clothes will stand out against the back­ground of green plants.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

3. Motion blur (motion blur)

You can use motion blur to con­vey the move­ment of an object. You can get the effect by track­ing the object with the cam­era, main­tain­ing a rel­a­tive­ly clear focus on it — in this case, the back­ground will be blurred.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

Anoth­er way is to shoot a mov­ing back­ground and a sta­tion­ary object, such as a per­son in front of a train.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

4. Subframing (“photo in photo”) and the use of layers

Sub­fram­ing is a tech­nique when one of the ele­ments of a pho­to acts as a frame for anoth­er ele­ment. Such a frame makes focus on the ele­ment inside it.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

You can also use “lay­ers” — fore­ground, object and back­ground. We use dif­fer­ent ele­ments to direct the view­er’s atten­tion as they move from one ele­ment to the next.

Pho­to: Kebs Cayabyab / petapixel.com

It took me a while to mas­ter these tech­niques, due to the fact that before that I always used bokeh. Now these tech­niques in most cas­es are bet­ter suit­ed for my work.

To be clear, I’m not say­ing you can’t use a shal­low depth of field. Use what you think is best for your pur­pose. But if you’re now, like me, always shoot­ing wide open, it might be time to learn some­thing new. It’s time to mas­ter new shoot­ing tech­niques.

PS If you liked this arti­cle and YouTube video, you can sub­scribe to my YouTube chan­nel.

The opin­ion of the author may not coin­cide with the opin­ion of the edi­tors.