6 Tips for Creating Buttery Smooth Backgrounds

A fast telephoto lens might be the solution for the perfectly smooth background that isolates your subject; however, there is more you should know to achieve the perfectly blurred background.

When it comes to wildlife photography, one of your biggest challenges is separating your subject from the background. Considering the busy and distracting settings in wilderness, the best way to separate your subject is blurring the background. Therefore, you will need a fast aperture lens with an appropriate focal length, and usually these kinds of telephoto lenses come at a cost. Even if you have all the required professional gear, you might still need to fall in line with some rules to achieve that smooth, creamy background.

Regardless of your camera brand and model, there are some technical details to consider when shooting in nature. In this nine-minute video, wildlife photographer Steve Perry shares his tips and tricks about how to get the best results when trying to achieve shallow depth of field and creamy background. His tricks cover a wide range of topics that include how to use your gear, how to adjust your angle when shooting, and some more technical details, such as the effect of sensor size when shooting in nature.

If you have any tips for getting the smoothest background, let us know in the comments section below.

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14 Comments

Ivan Lantsov's picture

butter? is good for toast !

Jacques Cornell's picture

If you guys publish any more butter, I'm going to have to windex my screen. Sheesh. Some fashions need to end sooner rather than later.

Deleted Account's picture

In certain situations, I like it and would hate to see it go.

Nitin Chandra's picture

I prefer bokeh to butter myself :)

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I think for most wildlife images, it will be and should be the norm. Nice buttery bokeh.

Nitin Chandra's picture

I have a far cheaper and easier solution here... :)

https://youtu.be/zc_yEPB-Gs4

Deleted Account's picture

I never replace backgrounds but certainly understand the motivation to do so.

Nitin Chandra's picture

All depends on what one is trying to achieve. For example, we use focus stacking to overcome the limitations of the current technology, by the same token, since it is mostly not feasible to get clean shots in the wild, one has to overcome that by editing. At the same time, no amount of editing can make a bad image look good, the subject in the image has to be clean to start with.

In my case, I shoot around my place and in nearby public parks. The intent is to create awareness of the beauty we still have in the urban areas around us. Hopefully, people get interested in preserving nature once they see an image that really pops.

Deleted Account's picture

Agreed and I have no qualms about editing the background to remove distractions. I just wouldn't replace the entire background. And, speaking of focus stacking, I know a lot of photographers will bring an artificial background for use in the field but I would never do that, NOT that there's anything wrong with it. The way I look at it is, if I use technology or hacks to increase my ability to take great photos, they're not as special. Put another way, I prefer the stars to align on their own and be there to record it, over artificially aligning them.
I am confused, however, with your second paragraph. If you're trying to record nature so people can become interested in it, isn't it disingenuous to replace most of it (the background) with a different recording, perhaps of a different place?
Please understand...I'm not trying to be contentious; you can, and should, do whatever you like. :-)

Nitin Chandra's picture

Well...I have already demonstrated in my videos that I prefer using the original image as the background most of the time and just blur it out for a variety of reasons.

Regarding the awareness part, my own experience with neighbours etc. tells me that if they do not have the time to look at or appreciate images unless they pop out. This is correct and honestly, I was the same once upon a time. Have also explained some of this in one of my videos.

I try to make calendars for my neighbourhood every year...Maybe around 50 or so printed and gifted. The other thing I learned was that very few appreciate insects no matter what :)

Erik Nilsson's picture

Regarding the insects, a quote from my friend: "Those things should stay small..."

I love taking photos of insects too, and sometimes they can be as beautiful as birds, but a lot of the time they turn out very monster-like when I get in close

Nitin Chandra's picture

LoL! I have not run into any such so far...They are all amazingly beautiful, but, yes, I tried to keep the calendar limited to shots like these... :)

https://flic.kr/p/2hYP6N9

With the description like this is what you see as a small black spot with the naked eye, but, in reality, it is pure gold...

Deleted Account's picture

:-)