Another question asks, How can I maximize the “blurry background, sharp subject” (bokeh) effect?

Rather than the background, I am interested in blurring the foreground. What techniques or advice are different for achieving sharp subjects with strongly blurred foregrounds?

Note that I'm not asking how to use an editing program to achieve this effect after in post production or after the image is captured.

I am using a Nikon D7200 with an AF-S 18-140 mm VR Lens


5 Answers 5


From the other question:

Here's the list of things that influence depth of field the most (in this particular order):

  1. Subject distance, the closer the subject is, the shallower the DOF (think of macro)
  2. Focal length, the more millimeters, the shallower the DOF
  3. Aperture, the smaller the f-number, the shallower the DOF

(written by Karel)

and this is my addition specific for this question:

  1. Make the foreground as close the to camera as possible. Make the subject as far away as possible.

The closer the camera is to the foreground, the larger the bokeh will be. As the camera is moved away from the foreground, the bokeh will be smaller.

Here is my clarification,


enter image description here ISO 100, 55mm, F 2.8, 1/100

This is what the lighting setup looks like (sorry for crappy image quality... you can't take pictures of your nice camera with your nice camera): enter image description here

I am not using a flash. I am using a lightbulb that is behind the fan.


The smaller the depth of field, the greater the bokeh will be before and beyond the subject. There are different ways to increase/decrease the depth of field, including changing the distance between your lens and your subject, changing the aperture (the larger the aperture, the smaller the depth of field), and changing the focal length of your zoom lens. Shutter speed doesn't affect the bokeh.

The quality of the bokeh can vary widely between lenses. Prime lenses tend to provide a better bokeh, but you should experiment with your lenses and check detailed reviews of potential new lenses before you decide which one is best for that kind of photography.


Use the largest aperture possible.

Also use a longer lens and greater camera-to-subject distance to get the same framing but with shallower DOF.


A wide open aperture will have a small "f-number". f/2, for example, is much bigger / wider open than f/8.

('f' means 'focal length', so f/2 means 'focal length divided by 2', or 'the aperture is half the focal length'. 'f/8' means 'the aperture is only 1/8th of the focal length, which is much smaller than one half').

A wide open aperture will produce a shallow depth of field - so if you focus on your subject and use a wide open aperture, a narrow field should be in focus at the subject. Both the foreground and background should be out of focus.

The exact depth of field that is in focus is proportional to your distance from the subject. Just how "out of focus" the background and foreground are depends also on their distance from the subject, so as Duncan suggested - if you can position your subject as far from the foreground that you want blurred, as possible, that will maximise the effect.

Bokeh refers to the nature of the blurring. For example, when pinpoint highlight (such as light sources) are out of focus, does the blurring show a particular shape? Or is it round? etc. It does not necessarily refer to how far out of focus those points are. It refers more to the nature of the blurring. Therefore I think what you mean to ask is how to minimise the amount of subject that is in focus (ie. achieve a shallow depth of field). Areas that are out of focus (including both foreground and background) will exhibit bokeh - but that's irrelevant to the question of how to get foreground out of focus.


Use wide open portrait lens.

Wide open means that you will get the narrowest depth of field the lens can provide.

Portrait lenses are designed to have good quantity and quality of out of focus blur.

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