A little bit softer now

On the wall behind the tellers line at my bank, there are 3 very large, soft, dreamy pictures of flowers. When I first noticed them – probably 7 or 8 years ago – I wondered why the bank decorators would think of putting up pictures that were, for the most part, out of focus?

After seeing them visit after visit, and spending far too much time in line, though, I began to realize that the hazy look was very soothing – a good choice for keeping people from getting upset about the wait. This was all before I picked up my first DSLR in late 2010.

Lately I’ve been trying to reproduce that feel. I came close a few weeks ago with this shot:

Spring flower

Purple flower: f/3.5

I created the look by setting the aperture to f/2.8 in AV mode, putting the camera in live view, and setting it on the ground in front of the flower, looking up towards the sky. In live view, clicking the zoom button zooms in on the focus, and I chose to focus on the spot where the stem meets the flower (I assume there’s an official name for that.) I liked the resulting picture enough to have note cards made from it.

Since then, I’ve tried again – multiple times – to get that same feel, but no go! What I discovered was that the settings I had used worked because the top of the stem was so thin.

For this bachelors button, I decided to boost the aperture. A good result (with bokeh!), but not the dreamy feel:

Bachelor Button

Bachelor button: f/9


I’ve tried yellow flowers, orange flowers, and white flowers, but no go. Today I took this one, that is once again close to what I was aiming for. I wonder if the secret is that the flower has to be purple? (I prefer the gray background of the previous one, though.)

Purple flower

Another purple flower – f/2.8 again

Really, what I need to do is to go back to the bank and try to figure out what they did.



  1. I love the way your mind works….standing in line at the bank gets you thinking and leads you to wondering how to shoot “soft”. πŸ™‚

    To achieve “soft” (and dreamy) you need to use a wide-opne aperture (like F/2.8), which yields a shallow DOF. WHAT you focus on also comes into play since, when talking DOF, the “field” extends a bit forward as well as backwards (more backwards than forwards). So, if you want a dreamy “front”, your focal point should be a bit further back.

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