Better Bokeh in 5 Simple Steps

Once upon a time I had no clue what Bokeh was, let alone how the hell to pronounce it! Boh-kee. Bokay. Bo-keh. IMG_2618

According to a post I read recently, "bouquet" is most commonly agreed upon as correct.

So bokeh (bouquet) - I personally enjoy saying Boh-kee- is a technical term used for that nice blurry effect which you get in the out of focus areas of your photographs when you use a shallow depth of field.

Today I have 5 steps to practice for better bokeh.

1. Understand Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to the areas in your photograph which are in and out of focus. Shallow depth of field will create more out of focus areas and consequently more bokeh. A greater depth of field will ensure that more of your photograph is in focus. Remember a shallow depth of field means using a small f-stop value for a large aperture, and deep depth of field requires large f-stop numbers for narrow aperture.

To create beautiful bokeh use a shallow depth of field and a longer focal length (zoom in more).

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2. Different lenses create different Bokeh

While equipment doesn't always matter, all lenses are not equal, and this is especially evident when it comes to achieving beautiful bokeh. The circular or octagonal shape of a lens aperture is determined by how many blades are used to create the aperture opening and if they are curved or square edged.

Generally speaking a more expensive lens will use more aperture blades which are also rounded. This effectively creates a circular shaped aperture which is reflected in the bokeh.

IMG_28763. Get up close and personal

In the image above I had my aperture set at f/4.0 and you can see the reflected circles in the bokeh. Recreate this effect by zooming in close to your subject and by also making sure the background isn't too far away. You can see in the image below of the Kookaburra that although the background is still nicely blurred I haven't managed the same circular effect because the background is further away from the subject.

For absolutely stunning bokeh in images with a far away background choose a lens with a large aperture (f/1.4, f/1.8).

IMG_28584. Use the background effectively

When bokeh is your primary goal it can be easy to simply set your aperture to the lowest value and hope for the best, but this isn't going to get you the best results. Keep in mind that the background of your image is also important and offers perspective and valued details to your photograph as a whole.

Rather than simply trying to create a blurry background, focus instead on how you want your subject to be captured. Practice using DOF to find the right aperture to ensure what is and isn't in focus and what the eye is naturally drawn to. IMG_2885

5. Experiment

When you understand how depth of field and bokeh are related it's fun to experiment with different angle and perspectives to tell a different story. Instead of just focusing on having a blurry background, try blurry objects in the foreground.

Utilize your creativity and fun with it!

IMG_2887These photos were taken on a sunny winter afternoon in the Dandenong Ranges at SkyHigh.

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Thanks for reading!