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iPhoto 5: The Missing Manual, Fourth Edition by Derrick Story, David Pogue

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Portraits

You may have noticed that in most professional photo portraits, the background is softly out of focus. Unless you have the cheapest camera on the planet, you can create a similar great-looking effect yourself.

In photographic terms, a shot with a soft-focus background is said to have a shallow depth of field. The term “depth of field” refers to how much of the picture is in focus. When you’re photographing your family in front of the Great Wall of China, you’ll probably want a deep depth of field, so that both the people and the background remain in focus. But in typical headshot-type portraits, you’ll want a shallow depth of field—and a blurry background. Figure 3-5 should make this more clear.

So how do you control the depth of field? Here are a few ways.

Trick 1: Zoom In

It might not seem logical that you’d want to use your camera’s zoom lens (if it has one) for a portrait. After all, you can get as close as you want to the subject just by walking.

But thanks to a quirk of optics, zooming in helps create a shallow depth of field, which is just what you want for portraits. (Back up if zooming puts the camera’s vision too close to the subject.)

Trick 2: Move the Background Back

The farther away your model is from the background, the softer the background will appear. If you choose an ivy-covered wall as your backdrop, for example, position your subject 10, 20, or 30 feet away from the wall—the farther, the better.

Trick 3: Choose a Wide Aperture Setting

You may remember that two ...

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