Bokeh is a Japanese word that means ‘blur ‘or ‘haze’. In photography, it’s defined as a soft, out of focus background effect. It is achieved by using a fast lens set at a wide aperture.
While this is good basic advice, you will need a few pointers to get the effect you are after. Read on to find out what you need to do to improve your bokeh technique.
Best Aperture for Bokeh
Lens speed refers to the maximum aperture diameter or minimum f number of the lens. Lenses with larger apertures and smaller diameters are known as fast lenses. This is because they achieve the same exposure with a fast shutter speed.
With bokeh, you’ll want to go with a fast lens with a wide aperture. Your aperture should be at least f/2.8 but apertures of f/2, f.1/8 and f/1.4 are ideal.
Best Lens for Bokeh
The lens will determine the shape and size of the bokeh. Specifically, the diaphragm blades (aperture) of the lens will be considered. Lenses with circular shaped blades will produce a rounder, softer effect with more out of focus highlights. If the aperture is hexagonal, it will produce a harder, more angled effect.
Producing a Bokeh Effect
If you don’t have a fast lens with a low aperture, you can make up for it by increasing the distance between the background and your subject to produce a bokeh effect. In fact, this technique should be used no matter what speed your lens is. It will provide a shallow depth of field and a more out of focus background.
When highlights hit the background, the bokeh effect will be stronger. Therefore, sidelights, backlights or hair lights may be used to create bokeh that is even more aesthetically pleasing.
Bokeh Camera Settings
It’s best to shoot bokeh with the lens wide open so you want to use an Aperture Priority or Manual shooting mode. Manual will allow you to choose your aperture and shutter speed. Aperture Priority lets you choose the f/stop while the camera chooses a shutter speed that suits the exposure.
The Flexible Program mode is another option, and you can use it to find the widest aperture/shutter speed combination.
Best Bokeh Images
Bokeh can be used to shoot just about anything, but it tends to work well with portraits and macro. You can get an up close and personal image of your subject while letting the background blur.
In terms of background, soft lights are perfect for creating a blurred effect that is complementary to your central theme.
Bokeh is a popular technique that adds softness to an image. It is also effective in making a mediocre background, well, fade into the background. Now that you know how to achieve this aesthetic, how will you be putting it to the test in the photos you take?