Simple Tips in Getting Great Bokeh Shots


When taking a photograph, usually most of the attention is centered on the subject and very little emphasis is placed on the areas that are not in focus. A usual technique used when photographing is having a shallow depth of field to make a particular subject more prominent than the other things surrounding it. This technique makes a lot of the photographers forget the artistic possibilities of the portions that are out of focus as they center all the attention on the subject alone. In fact, the background and foreground can add more depth and visual impact to an image when everything works together.

‘Bokeh’, a term derived from the Japanese word meaning ‘haze’ or ‘blur’, is the part of an image that is not clear or in focus. The correct pronunciation of the term ‘bokeh’ has been a topic of debate in the world of photography, but a popular pronunciation would be ‘bo’ as in ‘bone’ and ‘ke’ as in ‘kettle’. Contrary to what many photographers believe, bokeh is an important aspect in adding visual impact to an image and its artistic contribution can be controlled by using basic principles which we will further discuss in detail:

Use a big aperture for a shallower depth of field (DoF) – usually bokeh is determined to be the out of focus part of a photograph which is impacted by depth of field. DoF affects how big a portion of an image is blurry. A low aperture value such as 1.8 or 2.7 will produce a shallow DoF that will make a large portion of an image blurry. A common misconception for most budding photographers is to always use the lowest aperture setting. To make an image have more visual impact, maintain a balance between the blurry portions and the objects in focus. Just because the background is out of focus doesn’t mean you will have an ideal bokeh shot.

Choose the right lens – more expensive lenses out in the market have more curved aperture blades that produce circular bokeh. An aperture consists of a lot of blades that make up a circle or octagon that allows light to pass through to the sensor. Apertures that have more blades or have curved blades produce a more defined circular shaped light bursts while those with octagonal openings produce bokeh effects closer to its shape. Depending on your preference, the choice of aperture would create the effect you would want.

Create your own custom bokeh – as of late, the technique of placing cutouts specially designed to be placed onto a lens has been in vogue for photographers seeking a more customized effect to their images. This enables photographers to have more control of the shape of the bokeh lights.  This can add a touch of creativeness to photographs. Using a black sheet of paper, shapes can be cut out from it and taped onto a lens like a lens cap. Make sure the cutout is positioned exactly in the center of the lens to produce the desired effect. The end result will show bokeh shapes that follow the design of the cutout.

Relate the foreground with the background – ideally, in every image there has to be continuity and relation among the foreground, background and subject to have visual harmony. Sometimes, what we least expect to capture in an image is the most captivating. Make sure that in some way the foreground interacts with the background.

Bokeh may be a common technique used in photography but it is given much less attention in comparison to other techniques. By focusing on bokeh and constantly testing ways to improve its effects, it can add more depth and visual impact to your images.



This entry was posted on Saturday, November 6th, 2010 at 11:24 am and is filed under Articles, Composition, Lighting, Miscellaneous, Photo Inspiration, Photography Techniques. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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