ADD “BOKEH” TO YOUR PHOTOS:

woman holding fireflies
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

What is Bokeh?

I don’t know if this is a new fad in photography, but, it seems to be a very popular item lately. Take a look at the photo above. See in the background and the foreground, those out of focus lights that look like “blurry lights” ? That is the Bokeh! And it can add a lot of interest to your photos.

Just to clarify, I have found a photo that has Bokeh in it, and circled those lights that give us the “bokeh” effect. They are circled in yellow:

I went to my usual photo collection sites, and typed in “Bokeh” and got a ton of photos like this:

yellow bokeh photo
Photo by rovenimages.com on Pexels.com

That kind of photo is not something I like a lot. I just wouldn’t hang that on the wall. I like them in the background of the main subject, something like this:

close up photo of mushrooms
Photo by Visually Us on Pexels.com – See the blue “Bokeh” in the background?

If you want to put Bokeh in your photos, you will need to do the following:

USE THE RIGHT LENS:

Bokeh starts with lens choice. Go for a lens with a wide maximum aperture (ideally, f/2.8 or wider, but f/4 can work, too).

If possible, pick a lens with a high number of aperture blades (remember: the more circular the aperture shape, the better!).

And go with a standard or telephoto focal length, not wide angle.

SELECT A LARGE APERTURE

Bokeh is only affected by one camera setting: the aperture. So make it count!

For the strongest bokeh effect, dial in your lens’s lowest f-number. (Though if your lens goes to f/1.2 or f/1.4 and you’re shooting from up close, you may want to narrow the aperture just a bit to prevent your subject from going out of focus.)

If you’re not sure how to adjust the aperture, by the way, consult your camera manual. You’ll generally need to shift the mode dial to manual mode or Aperture priority mode, then rotate the corresponding aperture dial until it gives you the result you want (though some lenses offer an aperture ring on the barrel, which you can turn to manually set the aperture).

selective focus photography of light bulbs
Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

GET CLOSE TO YOUR SUBJECT

Determine the subject you want to photograph, then get close. Remember, you can either move close physically, or you can use a long lens for a tighter perspective.

If you have the time, try both; the effect will be slightly different in each case (longer lenses compress the background, which gives smooth bokeh, but you may lose a bit of intimacy), and you may find you prefer one look over the other.

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POSITION YOUR SUBJECT TO GET THE BEST BACKGROUND

If you can move your subject (or, in the case of portraits, if you can ask your subject to move), then put them in front of a uniform, non-distracting background.

And bring them far away from the background, so the bokeh effect is more pronounced.

If you can’t move your subject, then try to adjust your perspective. By getting down low, you can remove distracting background details from the frame; by moving to the side, you can increase subject-background distance; and so on.

beige a freestanding letter decor
Photo by Arun Kumar on Pexels.com

DIAL IN YOUR REMAINING SETTINGS FOR A GOOD EXPOSURE:

At this point, you’ve done everything you can for the best-possible bokeh.

So determine the remaining settings you need for a good exposure (e.g., your shutter speed and your ISO). Focus on your subject. Check one last time to ensure the background doesn’t include any distractions.

And take your photo!

After you capture a shot or two, check your camera’s LCD. Pay careful attention to the quality of the background. Ask yourself: How does the bokeh look? Is there anything I can change to make it better?

person pouring wine on glass
Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com

CONCLUSION

This is a wonderful thing to try if you haven’t yet. If you are doing it for a customer, or even yourself, you will find you will love the effect. Good luck!

“BOKEH” IN YOUR PHOTOS, AND HOW TO USE THEM

Photo by Francesco Tommasini on Unsplash

“Bokeh”! What is this new word? Take a look at the photo above, and notice all the little round lighted circles behind the subject. Those circles are “Bokeh”, and have become popular in photos lately because they make the subject stand out from the background in a very beautiful way.

Taken from a Japanese word for “blur,” bokeh has become a photography jargon used to describe how a lens renders a background that’s out of focus. As I was looking for a great photo showing Bokeh, I was surprised how many people just love Bokeh, without any foreground subject. Just like this:

yellow bokeh photo
Photo by rovenimages.com on Pexels.com

To me, a photo like this is not something I would hang up on the wall, but, might be used as a background to something else I want to create. However, if you search for Bokeh, on Google, you will get photos of pretty little circles, like shown above.

Now, if you would like to use more Bokeh in your photos, then follow these steps: They can only be created a certain way:

USE THE RIGHT LENS:

The reason why some people get frustrated with bokeh is that they’re probably using the wrong lens. The secret to getting beautiful bokeh is using a lens that has an aperture of at least f/2.8. Unfortunately, the maximum aperture of a typical kit lens (the lens often found on entry-level cameras) only goes as low as f/4.5 or f/3.5. Although it’s more or less just two f-stops away from the ideal aperture, it’s still not wide enough to provide the background blur essential for bokeh.

green grass with bokeh lights
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Take a look at your lenses and see if you have a lens that will do this. If you got a kit lens, chances are you don’t have a lens that will open to f2.8 or lower. So, check all your lenses. A standard lens, with no zoom, is relatively inexpensive, and will generally go to f1.8, which is perfect for creating this effect.

Check out your aperture blades:

Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

When choosing the ideal bokeh lens, also consider looking at aperture blades. The way they shape the aperture’s opening affects how the patterns in the background look. For instance, a lens with 9 blades creates a rounder aperture, making light sources appear circular and more natural-looking. On the other hand, a lens that has fewer blades (about 5 or 7) produces polygon-shaped orbs that look less desirable.

SET YOUR APERTURE MODE TO “AV”

The important thing to remember in creating the “bokeh” effect, is that you need to use a very wide aperture setting. F2.8 or bigger (or smaller number, like 1.8) will be the only way this works. If you want to go manual mode, that is fine, but, just make sure your aperture is set to the lower number.

CHOOSE A GOOD BACKGROUND:

To achieve bokeh, choosing the right background is crucial. Although it’s easy to blur a part of the scene with your lens, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee your image will have good bokeh.

Plain backgrounds don’t make good bokeh because there’s just nothing much going on visually. If you look at beautiful bokeh shots, you’ll notice that even with a blurry background, particular elements like light orbs or soft textures and patterns appear prominently in the image.

The perfect places to get bokeh is usually from urban locations. There, you usually have some kind of soft lights in the background that just make it nice.

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

Light reflecting on bodies of water such as ponds and lakes creates captivating bokeh effects as well.

Look for lights behind a possible portrait. This is truly a wonderful effect with bokeh, if everything is in it’s place. It just seems to give a dreamy effect.

Photo by Arnaud Mesureur on Unsplash

conclusion:

Look for lights in the background when taking portraits. Or anything else that has a high reflective light coming from it, and see if you can enjoy getting some good “bokeh” photos.

Thought for the day:

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

Robert Capa

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