Taking Unfocused Photos

Taking Unfocused Photos


Beautifully sharp and detailed images are something we all aspire for in the majority of our shots – I know I do.

However purposely leaving your main subject (or even your whole shot) out of focus can also create stunningly dreamy images also.

There are two main strategies if you’re wanting to explore purposely ‘unfocused’ images:

1. You might choose to focus on a seemingly unimportant element of the scene (do this by choosing a wide aperture which will give a narrow depth of field and focus on something in front of or behind your main subject).

2. The other option is to make your full image out of focus but choosing to focus well beyond or in front of your main subject. Again, a wide aperture will help here and you will probably need to switch your camera to manual focusing mode or it will attempt to find something to focus upon.

This second option will take a little experimentation. Get things too unfocused and you’ll end up with a completely unrecognizable subject – the key is to have enough focus for it to be recognizable but out of focus enough to create a wonderful dreamy mood.

Below are two more examples of unfocused images for a little inspiration.

This post belongs to our series on Breaking Rules of Photography.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • minhnd May 23, 2011 12:43 pm

    Great !

  • MJ March 8, 2011 01:49 pm

    Hi! here my shot at this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mari33/5480382212/

  • Amarnath April 22, 2010 10:00 pm

    This is new. I like the fact that in the second picture, some bubbles are in focus which adds to the dramatic effect.

  • bshowell March 29, 2010 12:28 am

    I love them! They look like my world without glasses!

  • Svetlyak 40wt September 6, 2008 06:16 am

    I am sorry. Link to monocle images, given above is broken now. Use this link http://svetlyak.ru/gallery/bytag/monocle/ instead.

  • bogart June 27, 2008 09:50 am

    I did not imagine that blurred pics can be as dramatic as clear pics. However, I think we should be careful on what subject would look great with said technique.

  • Dan Cole September 6, 2007 11:59 am

    It reminds me of memories... where they kind of fade away, but the general shapes and colors still remain.

  • John K August 24, 2007 06:41 pm

    It works if you have a lens which produces good bokeh and a scene which is not cluttered.

  • aryo August 24, 2007 01:21 pm

    yes i agree with Rich... even though the main subject is not in focus, but i think there should be 1 focus point in the picture

  • Svetlyak 40wt August 23, 2007 06:43 pm

    Here is my version of the "out of focus" image!!!


  • Bob Dale August 23, 2007 03:38 pm


    Here's what's really great about this topic of "out of focus" or unfocused.

    It's a great way to examine "thinking outside of the box' when it comes to photographic creativity. Everyone knows that YOU would be a BAD photographer if you couldn't even get the photo in focus. That's a BIG FAT LIE in the world of creativity.

    Once you open the door that it may even be a better photograph if it's out of focus (unfocused)......you open your mind to seeing other creative possibilities.

    I am having a "7 Day Photography Challenge" at my blog. Please visit us at http://www.dalestudios.com/blog to see if you are up to the challenge!

    Bob Dale
    Master Photographer
    Dale Studios

  • Laurel August 23, 2007 02:14 am

    Here's one I took (not on purpose) with just the leaf in the bottom in focus. It kinda looks like it is trying to come through the shot! What do you think of this picture?


  • Alessandro August 22, 2007 07:06 pm

    I really like this post for break another of rules of photograpy.

    All the image are good, the third image make the subject as a ghost, it's evocative.

    Another great post, thank you :D

  • Svetlyak 40wt August 22, 2007 02:56 pm

    I like to use "monocle" lens to reach similar images: http://svetlyak.ru/gallery/bytag/monokl/p1/

  • Graeme Smith August 22, 2007 04:26 am

    Very nice, it's amazing how well they work for being super blurring!

  • Rich August 22, 2007 03:58 am

    That first image is wonderful; The second is still good but the third I don't like at all!

    The thing about the first and second is that there is something in the foreground too, to give some context.

    In the first case it's snow, and the second case some (almost in focus!) bubbles.

  • Andrew Ferguson August 22, 2007 03:55 am

    I'm a big fan of the focusing trick when used similar to the first photo in the series. I love the effect given by focusing on snow falling between the camera and the subject.

  • Nathaniel August 22, 2007 03:05 am

    Here's one that I took to get the bokeh effect.