Close
Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Creative Assist Lesson 1: Controlling Brightness and Background Blur

Need a quick way to get your photos to look the way you want, but still trying to understand technical terms like “aperture” and “exposure triangle”? Try the Creative Assist function, which provides an easy, intuitive way to adjust the look and style of your shots.

In Lesson 1, we share two tips that will help you enhance your shot – how to control the brightness and the degree of background blur in a photo. (Photos by: Yuji Ogura, Edited by: Etica)

 

What is Creative Assist?

Creative Assist provides a new, intuitive way of controlling your camera settings so that you can get your shots to look the way that you want, even if you are still new to photography.

Instead of fumbling through settings like "f-number" or "exposure compensation" that you might not relate to, you select from options describing different effects such as "Background blur". All you need to do is choose the effect that you want, adjust the effect level, and the camera will change the settings that control them for you. This lets you achieve better images, straight out of the camera!

Know this: How is Creative Assist different from Creative filters?

Creative Assist adjusts your camera settings to help you achieve your desired look. 
Meanwhile, Creative filters are applied to images via software processing, and the resulting images can look dramatically different from the actual scene.

Both are great creative tools that you can harness for artistic expression. However, if you aspire to push yourself further and learn how to recover and enhance details by post-processing RAW images, note that you can't record in RAW in Creative filter mode, whereas you can in Creative Assist mode. 

 

Brightness: Change it to change the mood of a shot!

When you change the brightness level in Creative Assist, it makes the camera adjust the exposure compensation accordingly so that the image looks brighter or darker. This can also affect how viewers feel when they see the shot!

The two images below are of the same subject, but notice how the brightness makes the atmosphere different. 

 

A brighter shot

Plants by the window

Creative Assist/ Brightness +2

A brighter finish makes the photo look soft and airy. 

 

A darker shot

Plants by the window (darker)

Creative Assist/ Brightness -2

A darker finish makes the shot look moodier and more dramatic.

 

Creative Assist function: How to adjust image brightness

(1) Make sure you're in Scene Intelligent Auto mode

Mode dial in Scene Intelligent Auto mode

Press the [SET] button next to the LCD screen.
You might see a message. Read the message and select [OK].

 

(2) Select the "Brightness" icon

Creative Assist – Brightness

 

(3) Move the slider to adjust to your preferred brightness

Creative Assist brightness slider

Adjusting toward the “+” side makes your photos brighter, while adjusting toward the “-“ side makes it darker.

Tip:  If you record in RAW format, you can easily edit the RAW file in-camera later on to change any Creative Assist setting except for 'Background blur'. This creates a new JPEG file reflecting the changed settings, but the image quality will be as high as if you took the shot with those settings from the start.

 

Background blur: Makes your subject stand out better, and can bring out soft textures

That beautiful, smooth background blur is called "bokeh", and is created when the background is thrown out of focus. It can enhance the main subject, and also soften the look of the photo. The opposite of background blur is when the whole scene is in focus and the entire photo appears sharp.

The camera setting that has the biggest impact on background blur is aperture. When you adjust the background blur level in Creative Assist, the camera sets the aperture setting to achieve your desired effect. It also adjusts the other exposure settings so that the image does not become too dark or too bright.

Here's how background blur changes the look of your shot.


With background blur

Flower with background bokeh

Creative Assist/ Background blur +2

The background blur makes the surrounding leaves become less distracting, and the flower "pops". It also brings out the soft texture of the flower petals.

You may also be interested in:
Professional Composition Techniques (1): Visual Guidance, Unexpectedness, and Subtraction

 

Without background blur

Flower with no background bokeh

Creative Assist/ Background blur +4

This makes the flower and almost everything else around it look sharp. Our attention is on the entire plant, not just the flower alone.

 

Creative Assist function: How to control background blur (bokeh)

(1) Make sure you're in Scene Intelligent Auto mode

Mode dial in Scene Intelligent Auto mode

Press the [SET] button next to the LCD screen. 
You might see a message. Read the message and select [OK].

 

(2) Select "Background blur"

Creative Assist – Background blur

 

(3) Move the slider to adjust to your preferred level of background blur

Creative Assist background blur slider

The higher the value, the greater the level of blur in the photo, and the lower the value, the sharper the photo will look.

 

When you control the brightness and background blur, you can take photos like these!

Kale leaves shot with Creative Assist

Brighten the photo to beautifully capture kale leaves made translucent with light.

Creative Assist/ Brightness +3
[Shooting Conditions] Shooting location (weather): Outdoor (sunny), State of light (strength, direction): Soft light / backlight

 

Dramatic rose shot with Creative Assist

Darken the photo to give the camellia flower a mellow, muted look

Creative Assist/ Brightness -5
[Shooting Conditions] Shooting location (weather): Outdoor (cloudy), State of light (strength, direction): Soft light / oblique light from the right

 

Berries shot with Creative Assist

Increase the background blur to make bright red, ripened nandina berries stand out.

Creative Assist/ Background blur +2
[Shooting Conditions] Shooting location (weather): Outdoor (cloudy), State of light (strength, direction): Soft light / direct light

 

Torii shot with Creative Assist

Reduce the blur to sharply capture right to the end of a Torii-lined path at a shrine.

Creative Assist/ Background blur +4
[Shooting Conditions] Shooting location (weather): Outdoor (cloudy), State of light (strength, direction): Soft light / oblique light from the right

 

TIP: Try changing the aspect ratio of the photo!

Canon aspect ratio menu

Changing the aspect ratio on a Canon camera

You can adjust the ratio of width to height of a photo by changing the aspect ratio. As shown below, the look of the photo changes with each aspect ratio (3:2, 4:3, 1:1, and 16:9), so do experiment with them.

 

1:1: Square. Popular on social media such as Instagram.

 

16:9: Optimal ratio for viewing on TV. The long side is considerably longer than the short side.

 

3:2: Same ratio as that used for 35mm film. This aspect ratio is used for standard photos.

 

4:3: Commonly used for compact digital cameras. This aspect ratio is closer to 1:1 than 3:2, and is easier to use when composing photos, even for beginners.

 

Want to level up? Find out how to get better control over bokeh and brightness in:
Lens Basics #3: Creating Bokeh
Aperture-Priority AE Technique #1: The Relationship Between Lens Aperture and Bokeh
Camera Basics #3: Exposure
Camera Basics #4: Exposure Compensation

 


Receive the latest update on photography news, tips and tricks.

Be part of the SNAPSHOT Community.

Sign Up Now!

Etica

Etica

Etica Co., Ltd. not only run photography classes under the name “Tanoshii Camera School", but also edit publications and plan media and events related to cameras and photography, with a focus on themes related to child care, animals and food. Their motto is "Photos make people happy!" and they are engaged in communicating the charm of cameras and photography.

https://etica.jp/

Yuji Ogura

Yuji Ogura
Ogura’s work in photography expands from shooting photographic works to development and printing films. He is one of the tutors at the “Camera Biyori Photography School”. He started his career as an engineer at a film laboratory and later establishes his own “mogu camera” lab. He also runs the “mogu sun” portrait studio.