Get Blurry Backgrounds With Your Smartphone - Learn Blog Photography

Get Blurry Backgrounds With Your Smartphone

By Amy

Sep 14

After Focus for Blurry Backgrounds 

Did you think you couldn't get the soft and dreamy backgrounds found with DSLR photos because you don't have a fancy camera?  

Well think again!  

After Focus is an app found in the Google Play Store and Apple App store that can do just that!

No Fancy Camera Required!

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You can easily get that blurry background, no fancy camera needed!

As a DSLR owner and proud photographer, I love me some blurry background photos, but I never felt extremely happy with the photos I'd take with my iPhone....but THEN I found After Focus!!

After Focus is a game changer! It is a fantastic app that allows you to take control and "paint" the blur and transitional blur into your photos and I'm LOVING it!!

(Sidenote...the Galaxy S7 has a Pro mode that will allow this upon capture)

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Before After Focus editing

blurry background

After, After Focus editing

Get the blurry background you love with your smartphone.  Check out how to get it here!

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How your camera determines focus

What you need to understand first is how the camera determines focus.

Whether you're using a smartphone or fancy DSLR camera, they all have a box, or hash symbol used for placing focus on the main subject.  After you place your focus point on the main subject, your camera takes care of the rest.  It assesses the rest of the things in the frame and determines how far away they are from the focal point, or the place you put the focus box.  As objects in the photo's frame get further away from the point of focus they will become more blurry.  The amount of blur will depend on the distance away from the focus point and your camera's aperture setting.

Unfortunately, smartphones have fixed apertures so this is not adjustable, but that's where the AfterFocus app and others like it come in handy!​

Let's make sure you understand the focal planes a little better...

Consider an American football field. I’m standing in the end zone, looking down the field at the far end zone and I place my focus point on the 20 yard line, closest to me.  Anything placed on the 20 yard line will be in focus. The camera then considers the rest of the area in the frame in terms of planes. Therefore, the 15 and 25 yard lines will be slightly blurry and the 10 and 30 yard lines even more blurry, and so on.  The actual place where you reach maximum blurriness will depend on your lens' ability and the setting you pick.  This will create a gradual transition from in focus to full blur. 

After Focus -Manual Mode Tutorial

The first thing you do after opening the app, is to either take a photo or select a photo.

Next, you’ll decide if you want to use the smart method or manual mode.

Smart mode allows you to draw a line around the area that you want in focus.  It reads the photo and uses a fancy algorithm to determine what you're wanting in focus.  Another line is drawn for the transitional area.  Whereas, in manual mode you “paint” what you want in focus and you "paint" the transition section also.  

Today we are going to go over the manual version.

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At the bottom, left you'll see 3 squares.  The far left is to paint what will remain in focus, the middle box will be the tool you use to paint your mid ground, or partially blurry portion, and the right square will be used too erase any portions that were miss painted.  Anything left looking normal, when the background box is highlighted will be blurred out.

On the bottom, right is a pencil with a plus sign.  If you touch that icon you can change your brush brush size to larger or smaller.

You can zoom in or out by using two fingers and either spread them out to zoom in. or pulling them together to zoom out.  Two fingers together sliding left, right, up or down will move the photo around.

You can undo any brushstroke by touching the arcing arrow in the top left corner.

You can trash your edits by touching the trash can in the top left corner.

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You think you have appropriately painted your focus point and the mid ground point, you can apply the blur effect by touching the arrow in the top right corner.  Once you touched the apply button in the top-right corner, you can go back to make further edits by hitting the single arrow in the top left corner.  You will need to apply the edits agin if you've gone back to editing.

When you like your photo, you can hit the download button in the top-right. It looks like an arrow pointing down to a line.  After the blur has been applied, you can also make additional edits from this screen. By touching the blur tool, which looks like a teardrop, you can increase or decrease the level of blur or you can change the type of blur motion blur.  

I highly recommend you leave the box checked  for edge feathering.  This will allow a gradual transition at the edge of the brush stroke.

Under the aperture tool you have different types of blur options you can tap on each of them to see how it differs most the time I don't see a great difference, but you may like one more than another.

The FX buttons give you filter and adjustment options.  However, I typically do my editing in other apps and leave this one to applying blurry backgrounds.  

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About the Author

Amy is the owner extraordinaire at Learn Blog Photography and Amy Paris Photography. She's a single mom to an amazing teenage son. She's passionate about photography and skiing (downhill), the faster the better! Sign up for a FREE 30-min call to light up your photos & biz!