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Bokeh refers to the quality of out of focus areas or how aesthetically pleasing the blur in the out of focus areas in an image are. A good bokeh is very important for large aperture lenses which are often used for shallow depth of field images. The word bokeh is derived from the Japanese word ‘boke’ meaning fuzzy.

Bokeh Photography
Bokeh Photography

It was made popular in the photography world in 1997 by Mike Johnston the editor of the Photo Techniques magazine through a series of articles which appeared in the March/April 1997 issue.

Bokeh Photography
Bokeh Photography

Although a good bokeh is important for most shots using shallow depth of field it is an extremely important factor for macro and telephoto lenses.

Bokeh Photography
Bokeh Photography

Bokeh Tips and Techniques – How to create pleasing bokeh effect.

  1. Use your fastest lens at its widest aperture. So if your fastest lens is the 50mm 1.8, that that is what we will be using for the bokeh project. It is to be noted that in order to create great bokeh you will need a lens with an aperture ≤ f/4.
  2. Set your camera to Aperture priority mode (AV) and choose the widest aperture your lens permits. Let the camera determine the correct shutter speed.
  3. You will need a shutter speed faster than 1/30 th of a second. Any slower and all your background lights will appear to be merged together. So if you find the lights too dim to get faster shutter speeds increase your ISO.
  4. If you are using a zoom lens for your bokeh set it to its longest focal length.
  5. In order to render perfect bokeh you will need small light sources in your background, street lamps, Christmas lights, traffic lights etc all work just fine. During daytime light coming through the canopy of trees also render good bokeh. Important point is many small sources of light instead of a consistently lit background as that would only create an even blur.
  6. Ideally you will want some distance between your subject and your background lights as it makes the job of creating bokeh very easier.
  7. It is recommended that you set your lens to manual focus and focus manually on your subject else use focus lock to focus on your subject and then re-compose your shot.

Bokeh Photography
Bokeh Photography

Not all lens produce good bokeh. It depends on the lens construction. Among my lenses I find that the canon 50mm 1.8, 10mm f2.8 L IS USM, and 75 – 300 f3.5 – 5.6 produce good quality bokeh. Try out all your lenses and find out which among them has the best quality bokeh effect.

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