What is Bokeh?

Capturing Bokeh
photo credit: kennymatic

We discussed about using aperture priority mode and how it can influence Bokeh in our photos. In this article we shall discuss tips on capturing Bokeh. The word Bokeh has been taken from the Japanese dictionary and it means “blur”. Bokeh, to re-iterate, is the soft out of focus effect in the foreground and background of your photos. However, instead of being all about out of focus it is the quality of the out of focus effect which determines the quality of a particular lens’ Bokeh capabilities.

Bokeh can be used for a wide variety of creative effects. Yes, it has been used quite effectively for shooting portraitures in natural light, outdoors, but it can also be used to shoot pet photos and capture creative lighting effects and do a number of other things. Here you are limited only by your imagination.

Requirement of Lens

Capturing Bokeh
photo credit: Ian Sane

You will need a fast lens in order to capture Bokeh. In order to capture Bokeh a lens of maximum f/3.5 aperture is required. Some people have also captured beautiful Bokeh using an f/4 lens and an aperture of f/5.6. The trick is explained in the last paragraph. But in general, the wider the lens is the more easily you can create the out of focus effect. In this sense prime lenses have always been a major favorite for photographers. Prime lenses have extremely fast maximum apertures such f/2, f/1.8 and f/1.4.

There are some other important considerations as well which can help you capture Bokeh. Let’s look at them.

Shoot at the Widest Aperture Possible

Capturing Bokeh
photo credit: Giovanni ‘jjjohn’ Orlando

Always select the widest aperture that your lens is capable of shooting at. When you select the widest possible aperture the window of sharp focus becomes very small. That means if you point towards one of the eyes of the subject, anything else is slightly out of focus. Anything that is behind and or in front of the plane of focus will be further out of focus.

Capturing Bokeh by Increasing the Distance between the Subject and the Background

Capturing Bokeh
photo credit: blmiers2

As you increase the distance between the subject and the background you will notice that there is a considerable amount of out of focus effect in your images. This happens because the further the light source is coming from behind the plane of focus, the better (and softer) is the quality of the Bokeh. If the distance between the subject and the background is quite substantial then you may not even require a very fast lens to capture Bokeh. At that point even a lens that opens to f/5.6 is good enough for capturing nice and soft Bokeh.

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