This is one of my standard party shots:


It is three-dimensional, shows fun, and shows the subject well. If the subject is the worse for wear, the blurring hides that, which subjects tend to like for some reason.

You get a picture like this by:

  • Using an external flash.
  • Bouncing that flash behind you, off a wall or ceiling.
  • Using a wide lens : <24mm on a crop camera, or <35 on full frame.
  • Getting close. No, closer. No, even closer!
  • Using aperture or manual mode with a wide-open aperture (small “F”-number).

Oh dear, I seem to have given away another secret.

Guess what.  The days that “giving away secrets” was a bad thing are long gone. We call this The Internet. You can come here every day in the secure knowledge that I will never “hold back information”. My mission is to fill the world with better photographers, and to show you all how simple this is. Because it is.


One trick when you take a picture – no, make a picture – is to tell a bit of a story. One way to do that is to provide both a subject and context. And to separate them. By position, or by distance, or by size, or, as in this picture, which I took for The Oakville Beaver in April, by blurring out the background – which then becomes the context.

Studio wide

In fact as you see I used size as well: the ultra-wide lens (16mm) makes the distance look far away, because I am so close to the foreground object.

For a shot like this I use my 16-35mm f/2.8 lens on my Canon 1Ds MkIII camera. That great lens gives me the ability to get close, go wide, and yet to blur out backgrounds, which at wide angles is not easy unless you have that kind of wide aperture. Of course “getting close to your subject” is a way to enhance the “blurry background” effect.