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E-System: Shooting Outdoor Portraits

Taking outdoor portraits can be one of the best ways to capture memorable images of friends and family. And while outdoor portraits include capturing some of the beauty of nature, you don't want to detract from your main subject. A nicely blurred background or foreground can help to accentuate the subject of your portrait. Here are a few tips on taking interesting outdoor portraits against a background of vivid colors.

Selecting the focal length to blur the background
Three elements are important to blur the background of the picture. The first is using a lens with a long focal length. In other words, select a telephoto lens rather than a wide-angle lens. Telephoto lenses tend to have a shallower depth of field than wide-angle lenses, making it easier to blur areas outside the focus area.

Opening up the aperture to blur the background
Another element that will help you blur the background is the aperture setting. The more the aperture is opened up, the shallower the depth of field will become. In other words, select smaller aperture values (f-numbers) for a wider aperture and more blur. An f-number of f3.5 will blur the background more than f5.6. The smallest f-number that can be set varies depending on the lens used. Set the shooting mode to A (Aperture Priority Auto (A)) to set the aperture value and the camera will set the appropriate shutter speed automatically. When the sunlight is too strong, the camera may not be able to set the correct shutter speed. In such a case, select a slightly larger aperture value.

If you have an interchangable lens camera, check out our selection of popular fixed-length prime lenses. These lenses enable beautiful background blurring with apertures starting as low as f1.8.

> View PEN & OM-D Fixed-Length Lenses
> View DSLR Fixed Length Lenses

Distancing the background from the people in the portrait
When focusing on the subject, some of the area in front of and behind the subject will be in focus as well. When other elements in the background or foreground are too close to the subject, it will be more difficult to blur them out. If this occurs, try leaving greater distance between the subject and the background. You can also try getting closer to the subject and thus having the background relatively farther away.

Should I use a Filter?
When taking outdoor portraits, using a circular polarizing filter can provide richer color and cut glare and shiny highlights on your subject.

Tips when using a filter

  • Choose a high-quality filter for best results (talk to your local camera dealer), as anything other than a high-quality filter may reduce sharpness and image quality.
  • When you using a filter, the amount of light hitting the camera sensor will be decreased. As a result, the camera may set slower shutter speeds which can lead to camera blur. Try using a tripod or take other measures to avoid this.
  • Remember, a polarizer will have its strongest effect when the light of the sun is at approximately 90 degrees in relation to the polarizer.