by Erick Nelson
(Newport, WA)

I was trying to create a portrait of my daughter that had some drama to it without going over the edge. I am still working with learning how to effectively use a digital darkroom.

I would like to know what you think of this photograph and any advice you could give to help make future photographs like this better.

Thank you,


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There seem to be a rush of portrait shots appearing this month, must be the season! Erick’s is a good example of the genre.

Some of the basic 'rules' of portrait photography have been applied here – the main one being throwing the background out of focus, whilst keeping the foreground (i.e. Becca) in sharp focus.

However, the blur here confuses me a little. It doesn't appear to be caused by a wide aperture. When a wide aperture is used the background becomes blurry, but the blur is generally quite aesthetic. This aesthetic blurring is called 'bokeh'. The better the lens, the nicer the bokeh.

The blur here however appears to be too even, almost as if someone has found the ‘blur’ tool in Photoshop, and got to work on the background with it. The background in the distance appears to be just as blurry as the middle ground. Only Erick can tell us, I guess (and please do leave us a comment Erick).

You can read more about using the aperture to control depth of field here.

But back to the photo in general. The pose is quite likable. We usually advise a portrait to have eye contact, but sometimes that wistful look away from the camera can work well too. And I think here it does. It would be worth trying a few more shots at the time to try to get some eye contact though, and maybe a cheeky smile.

The soft late afternoon lighting also works well. This sort of shot in the middle of the day is never as good as the light is just too harsh. Erick has made the right decision to take this shot later in the day and make the most of the Golden Hour.

Click for some digital photography tips, including the golden hour here.

All in all, a nice photo, well done! And please, Erick, put us out of our misery and let us know how the blur was achieved.


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Comments for Becca

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Mar 31, 2008
Hit the nail on the head
by: Erick

You are absolutely right about how the blur was achieved.

This photo was done using an inexpensive pas (point and shoot) camera. It is hard for me to get a good dof (depth of field) shot with it.

I selected Becca with the selection tool, inverted the selection and applied a blur to the background. That is why it is so even.

The reason for doing this was that in the original, the background was just to prominent and, for me, took to much away from the focal point.

Hope this explains how this was done. If anyone has any more questions, please feel free to ask.

Thank you,


Thanks for the comments Erick.

We agree completely that the background, had it not been blurred, would have detracted from the subject (i.e. Becca).

We also know that PAS cameras just can't produce the depth of field that a digital SLR camera can.

Hats off to you for both spotting this, and using software to compensate. All in all, we reckon that your version (with the blur added) is a better shot than the original.

Thanks for your post.

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