What Is Bokeh In Photography, And How Do You Create It ? Update 10/2021

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Bokeh, also referred to as “Boke,” is a popular photographic subject. It’s so popular because Bokeh enhances the visual appeal of photographs, causing us to pay closer attention to a specific part of the image. The word “blur” is a borrowing from Japanese, where it means “to distort”.

1. What Is Bokeh ?

Since the first photographs were taken with lenses, out-of-focus highlights have appeared in them. The term “bokeh” was coined in 1997 by the photography magazine Photo Techniques, and since then, the out-of-focus areas of photographs have been closely scrutinized. The aesthetics of a photograph’s out-of-focus specular highlights were discussed long before the term was coined, but until that year there was no word in English to describe it. The blurry background craze was started by Mike Johnston, article writers Carl Weese, John Kennerdell, and Oren Grad, as well as the Internet and a word that no one can pronounce.

As a result of shooting with a fast lens and the widest aperture possible (such as f/2.8 or wider), you get the effect of a soft out-of-focus background known as bokeh. Bokeh can be defined as the appealing or aesthetic quality of an image’s out-of-focus blur.

2. Good And Bad Bokeh

Bokeh is created by your lens, not your camera. Due to their different optical designs, different lenses produce a different amount of bokeh. Lenses for portraits and telephoto shots with large maximum apertures produce better-looking bokeh than consumer zooms with smaller apertures. If you shoot with a Nikon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G DX lens at the same focal length and aperture and compare it to a Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens, the bokeh looks much worse due to differences in optical design. Once more, the blur in the background isn’t the only thing I’m referring to; all lenses can produce out-of-focus blur, but not all lenses can render beautiful backgrounds.

So, what constitutes a stunning bokeh? In order to please our eyes and our perception of the image, bokeh should appear soft and “creamy,” with smooth round circles of light and no hard edges. It should be pleasing to the eye. The Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens creates stunning bokeh in the following photo:

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Look at the plain background behind the child’s head for a moment. This image has beautiful transitions between the sharp and blurry areas thanks to its use of out-of-focus areas that appear creamy and round and soft circles. You could definitely call that good bokeh!

What about a shoddy or unattractive bokeh? Despite the fact that many photographers believe there is no such thing as bad bokeh, I continue to label anything that causes my eyes to wander as “bad”:

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The blur quality is not pleasing to the eye, with sharp circles and double lines.

3. Bokeh Shapes

The shape of the reflected light in out of focus areas depends on the lens diaphragm. Many older lenses such as Nikon 50mm f/1.4D have 7 straight blades in their diaphragms, which results in heptagon-shaped bokeh like this:

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Most new lenses, now come with 9 rounded blades, which render round bokeh (Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR):

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4. How To Get Good Bokeh

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So, what are your best techniques for achieving pleasing bokeh in your photographs? Because of this, bokeh is determined by the lens you’re using. Fixed (prime) lenses and the majority of professional zoom lenses with fast apertures produce good-looking bokeh, while lower-end consumer zoom lenses produce unappealing bokeh.

Do you know if the bokeh on your lens is good? Here’s an exercise to try: keep an eye out for objects at least 5-6 feet away from the subject while focusing on it from a close distance (as close as the lens will allow you to keep the subject in focus). Make sure you’re at eye level with the object you’re photographing. Avoid using a plain wall as a backdrop; instead, look for a colorful one that has some light shining on it. A Christmas tree makes for an excellent bokeh test backdrop.

Set your camera to “Aperture Priority” mode and your aperture to the lowest number once you’ve located a suitable test subject and a suitable background. The minimum aperture on most consumer zoom lenses is usually f/3.5, while the maximum aperture on prime and professional zoom lenses can be as high as f/1.2. Take a picture of your subject and examine the LCD on the back of your camera after you’ve reduced the aperture to its smallest setting. The main focus should be on the subject, with a blurred background. Good lenses will produce soft, pleasing-to-the-eye bokeh, like the one in the example above. Any hard edges in the circular reflections should be avoided.

5. What Lenses Create Great Bokeh ?

Bokeh can be achieved with a wide variety of lenses. For the most part, fast round-blade prime lenses, such as the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G and the Canon 85mm f/1.2 II USM, produce beautiful backgrounds. Bokeh is also beautiful when using the less expensive versions of the same lens, such as the Nikon 85mm and Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM. Too many lenses exist to list them all, so do some additional research on the various lenses available based on your photography needs.

6. How Shutter Speed, Aperture, And Positioning Affect Bokeh.

In order to figure out how to get the bokeh you desire, start with a well-lit, static subject, such as a bowl of fruit, and take test shots.

+ Shutter speed: Shutter speed determines how long the shutter on your camera remains open to allow light to hit the film in your camera, or its digital sensor. It’s measured in seconds, so a fast shutter speed might be 1/1,000 of a second versus a slow speed of a second. As you open up the aperture of your camera, you can increase the shutter speed to get crisper images. Experiment with f-stops in relation to shutter speed to see how your bokeh shifts and changes.

+ Aperture: The depth of field you create with your aperture settings will be the primary mover and shaker in bokeh. Try varying the f-stops to see what results you get.

+ Positioning: Bokeh is influenced by the distance between the camera and your subject, as well as the distance between your subject and their background. You can experiment with the bokeh of your lens by taking shots at different distances and with your subject at different distances from their surroundings.

+ Focus: The focal plane changes depending on where your focus is. Try taking pictures of different angles and focusing on different parts of your subject to see what you get. As well, disable the autofocus point selection feature. Khara Plicanic, a photographer, says, “You want to determine what to focus on in the frame yourself instead of letting the camera choose.” “It has the potential to have a significant impact.”

7. Is Bokeh Just A Technique ?

Bokeh is a photographic technique, but how you use it is completely up to you. Everyone’s perception of what good bokeh looks like varies. bokeh is greatly influenced by the lens being used, so it’s important to know how lenses render blur when photographing it. After that, the photographer’s vision takes center stage.

While the bokeh effect is typically associated with photography, we’ve seen artists using it in their paintings on Artfinder as well. Remember, experimenting with focus and lighting is the whole point.

8. Keep Bokeh in Perspective

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For nearly two decades, there has been a discussion and a website about bokeh for every conversation and website about lens sharpness. Bokeh and sharpness aren’t usually the focus of a photograph, but they sure are the starting point for a lot of debates.

Working with bokeh can be entertaining whether you’re experimenting with it, making your own, or just taking pictures with it. Please feel free to experiment with bokeh and share your findings with us in the Comments section. However, if you notice that the bokeh produced by your favorite lens is swirly, creamy, bubbly, bokethereal [you’ve heard it here first], or bokehlishious [you’ve heard it here first], or bokeawesome [you’ve heard it here first], avoid losing the subject in the background… This is true unless the background is a ghastly blob of blur.

9. Why Is Bokeh Art So Popular ?

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Warmth and romance can be evoked with hazy backgrounds and round orbs of glowing light. Imagine yourself warm and dry inside, peering out a rain-soaked window to see the world go by. Alternatively, you could be in a car at night, driving through a fascinating new city. People will call it bokeh if you print it out and put it on canvas.