Is it possible to take a portrait of someone with a telephoto lens (for example 85 or 135mm) without any background blur (or at least with minimal blur)?

I am planning to take portraits of somebody on rooftop (with the city skyline in the background). While I want to achieve the flattering compressed look of telephoto lenses on the face of my subject, I want to keep the skyline background sharp.

Would be grateful for any help!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant \$\endgroup\$
    – twalberg
    Feb 25, 2019 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ You probably will not have a "Skyline" just the building you have behind you. Plan your shot a bit more. For a skyline, you probably need a wide angle. Go to your own rooftop and take some samples. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Feb 25, 2019 at 21:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of What is aperture, and how does it affect my photographs? \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Feb 25, 2019 at 22:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ See also: What exactly determines depth of field? \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Feb 25, 2019 at 22:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or consider just doing it with post-processing. Take two photos and superimpose your subject in front of the in-focus background \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Feb 25, 2019 at 22:18

3 Answers 3


you can also use focus stack, take one picture with your subject and one of background and merge them in software


Yes, it is.

  • Narrow down your aperture.
  • Bump up your exposure time to compensate. Alternatively, you could bump up the ISO level but that would create more noise.
  • Stand far enough from the person you're photographing.
  • If needed, use image stabilization or a tripod to compensate for the long exposure time.
  • If needed and you're taking the picture in dark environment, use a flash to separate the subject from the background. You said you didn't want separation based on depth of field, but you could use separation based on light.

You need a smaller aperture to create a greater depth-of-field, but DoF is also dependent on camera-to-subject distance and focal length. You can use any DoF calculation app to do the actual calcs for your situation.

Once you start playing around with the app you'll know if you will be able to achieve the look you want. Let's try an example using Photobuddy for IOS:

100mm focal length
Canon 5D Mk III (full frame)
12 feet camera-to-subject distance

You need infinite depth of field for a sharp background (a far limit of infinity). Photobuddy tells me I'd need f/128 to get there. Sadly, my best lens in that focal length only does f/22.

So, if I instead plug in f/22 and see what that does for DoF, Photobuddy tells me that the DoF will be ~47 inches. No bueno for what you want. If I go to an 85mm lens, the DoF gets slightly bigger -- by a few inches.

OK, so let's play with subject distance. If I go to 30 feet, then DoF at f/22 goes up to ~300ft. But still likely not enough for what you want.

You get the idea. What you are trying to do may not be possible given the space, lens and composition constraints that you have. But using an app to explore will give you a sense for what is possible.


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