WHAT IS THE “BOKEH EFFECT” IN PHOTOGRAPHY?

Just what is “Bokeh”

defocused image of illuminated christmas lights
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

THERE !  CAN I BE ANY MORE BLUNT THAN THAT!   THOSE LITTLE ROUND COLOR LIGHTS THAT YOU USUALLY SEE AS A BACKGROUND LIGHT IN PHOTOS IS CALLED “BOKEH”.

Now let’s get into some detail where they came from, why they are used, and why they are so important in photography today.

If you are new to photography you have probably only recently learned about the concept known as “bokeh”. It is Japanese in origin and refers to blur or a blurry quality, and in photography it is a very recognizable technique.

bokeh-for-beginning-photographers
Photo by Maarten Elings; ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/80-second exposure.

Let’s first understand the fundamental differences between soft focus and bokeh. In soft focus photography there is an intentional blurriness added to the subject while the actual edges are retained in sharp focus, but in bokeh it is only an element of the image that is intentionally blurred. Additionally, bokeh tends to emphasize certain points of light in the image as well.

Bokeh tends to appear in the areas of an image that remain outside the focal region. Because of this the most common technique used to add it is a shallow depth of field created through a wide open aperture.

In order to create an image that contains what is known as “good” bokeh, the photographer must first find a subject which is easily captured in a close up or short focal distance. For this discussion we’ll select a daffodil blooming in the bright spring sunshine. We will want to be sure that the sun shining down on the bloom is also apparent in the background behind it. This is the way to allow the points of light behind the flower to be forced out of focus and create the round blooms which are so common to images relying on bokeh for their overall effect.

learn-about-bokeh-in-photography
Photo by Dan Bergstrom; ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/30-second exposure.

We’ll position the camera on a tripod and use the manual settings to focus the flower sharply. The next step is to actually un-focus the bloom slightly so that the background is completely blurred, but the flower is still a recognizable item. We must then decide upon the exposure settings for this image, and this involves the proper shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

Because we don’t want any graininess to ruin the prints of this image we will raise the ISO no higher than 400. This means that we will want to also keep the aperture open wider to allow a shorter shutter time too (remember that high ISOs and long shutters are the most common reason for digital noise).

bloom blooming blossom blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

For this exposure an f/5.6 is selected and a shutter speed of 125 is what the meter recommends. The wide open aperture creates an even shorter depth of field, and the background that we have already forced into a blur is going to become even more unrecognizable and dotted with brilliant points of light. This is what is referred to commonly as good bokeh.

 

About the Author:
Amy Renfrey writes for DigitalPhotographySuccess.com. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians (Drummers for Prince and Anastasia) to weddings and portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students

 

More examples of Great Bokeh Photos:

 

adult aperture bokeh camcorder
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

christmas tree with baubles
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

 

relaxation sitting reflection statue
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Have you noticed a change in the blog, as far as the font?  Yes, the website has changed, as promised.  I am now able to do fonts in different colors.  The blog is now on a standard white background so everything is easier to see as well.  Hope you enjoy it.  

 

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