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The Bokeh Effect Explained

A common and popular technique that adds life and depth to a photograph is called  Bokeh. But what is Bokeh photography? It’s a lot simpler than you think. Bokeh is a Japanese word that means ‘to blur’ in English. Therefore, the Bokeh effect is when you add blur to your image. However, this isn’t about just adding any blurry effect. Bokeh is a specific technique, which focuses on blur created from highlights in the background of a shot. If you can master the technique, Bokeh adds a professional and magical touch to your images. Let’s get into some more detail about Bokeh photography and how you can perfect the technique.

What influences the amount of Bokeh?

bokeh christmas tree There are many aspects that influence the result of Bokeh in your image. Let’s start with the camera lens, as this is arguably the most important part. The camera lens is what produces the blur effect from the lighting. To get the perfect Bokeh effect, you want a round, circular blur from the highlights in the background. Remember to be careful though, because the bigger the circles get, the higher the chance of them bleeding into the background. If you look carefully at different Bokeh backgrounds, you will see that the circles are shapes and sizes. This can be influenced by the type of lens you are using. Older lenses tend to produce straight edges and hexagonal shapes, but newer, more up-to-date lenses will produce that sweet circular shape. For this reason, it’s worth investing in a good lens.

You’ll also need to alter the aperture of your camera lens. Aperture measures the opening of a lens, which allows light through. In your camera settings, this is the f/stop number. The lower the f/stop, the wider the lens opens. This means that the lens allows more light in, and the exposure is therefore higher. This further creates a shallower depth of field. Simply put, the larger the aperture, the better the Bokeh lighting effect will be. Remember to find the sweet spot so you don’t end up with one big blurry background. It’s important to consider the number of blades between the lens’s aperture. The more blades, the better the Bokeh tends to be. As we mentioned earlier, newer lenses create the circular-shaped Bokeh we want.

When you are looking for the perfect lens, you want to find one with the widest aperture and, therefore, the lowest f/stop. The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM is a great choice with its fast f/1.8 aperture. Canon’s RF 85mm F1.2L USM is the next step up from this, with exceptional levels of detail and quality, and an even faster f/1.2 aperture.

How to achieve the perfect bokeh effect

bokeh effect In addition to having the right camera and lens, there are a few other things you need to consider. Before you start creating Bokeh, it’s best to find some examples, so that you know what you are working towards. You can find them in this collection of stock photos for commercial use. Once you know what you are trying to achieve, consider the other factors that will influence your Bokeh.

Backgrounds are very important when it comes to photographing Bokeh. You need light sources to create Bokeh circles. When choosing your background, make sure you have different light sources coming through. You won’t find good Bokeh on a plain background. When we think of Bokeh, we often think about portrait photographs, where the subject is the focal point and the background is a brightly lit cityscape. Play around and experiment with different lighting to find what works best for you. When setting up your scene, ensure that you have the right distance between your subject in the forefront and the background. The further away from the background, the better the Bokeh. A wide frame and field of vision will also help. Always ensure to keep your camera at a short distance from the subject. Keeping them in focus will help the overall image and quality of Bokeh. You need to create different layers to perfect the lighting.

When to use Bokeh

bokeh There are many different ways to use the bokeh effect. Here is a list of different scenarios where you’ll get the best results.

  1. Portrait Photography – Bokeh is a popular choice for portrait photography because it draws attention to the subject in focus. When the background is blurred, and the subject is close up, it creates an aesthetic image that people love.
  2. Nature Photography – Nature photography is a fantastic way to utilize Bokeh. The natural sunlight you get in nature is a great tool to create Bokeh lighting. Bokeh is also a great addition to macro photography in general, not just nature.
  3. Landscape Photography – Urban cityscapes and night views with different lighting in the background can be a great base for Bokeh photography. You can also make use of this if you have a subject in the foreground of the image.
  4. Food Photography – Although an arguably niche topic, food photography can greatly benefit from a Bokeh background. It can add new dimension to an image. This can also work for other product photography.
  5. Movement shots – Photography with water or moving cars can also benefit from Bokeh lighting, as it adds an artistic and creative flare to the image.

Bokeh photography can be difficult, and there are many factors that influence it. However, once you master the technique, the results are worth it. Always remember to create a shallow depth of field and a wide frame of vision. Experiment with different lenses and aperture speeds to find what works best for you. Overtime, with the right equipment and practice, you’ll achieve exactly what you were striving towards.