Add a new dimension to your photography with the use of bokeh.  You can have good bokeh and bad bokeh. The easiest way to know if you have used the technique correctly is to determine if the blurring is pleasant or jarring.

The blurred effect can be as minimal as a faint hazy background or everything blurred except one small flower.  Bokeh came from the Japanese word ‘boke’ which means fuzziness.  When the technique was picked up in the United States it was changed to bokeh to aid in pronunciation.

In order to create the most effective “good” bokeh there are a few things you want to make sure you double check before presenting your piece.  Here are three basic questions you can ask yourself about your photograph to be sure you are showing off good bokeh instead of bad.

  • Is it the background that is blurred, not the foreground?
    • You want to keep your bokeh techniques in the background to keep it from jarring.
  • Are the blurred edges of the background objects soft, almost fuzzy?
    • Even when blurred you want to make sure the edges of the objects are not a sharper blur than the rest of the background.
  • Are the points of light in the background blended nicely?

Now, there are several ways to make bokeh.  You can make your aperture larger to, in effect, manipulate the perception of the depth of field to appear more two dimensional.  Be sure to make your background as distant as you can to make the blurring easier to achieve.

If you are shooting in lower lighting be sure that the background has enough light to create the blurry effect without it becoming an indistinguishable blur.  The closer you are to your subject the better the focus of your picture will be on what you want instead of allowing the eyes of the viewer to wander to objects in the background.

Bokeh Basics: Take and Make Great Photography by Gavin Hoey

Front Bokeh Portraits: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace

Beyond Basic Bokeh: Take and Make Great Photography by Gavin Hoey


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