Quick Steps to Better Bokeh

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For many photographers, bokeh is a beautiful phenomenon that can transform an image. However, many photographers aren’t exactly sure what causes bokeh – it shows up in some of their images but not in others, so what’s the difference? What can I do as a photographer to make sure that bokeh appears when I want it to?

 

Wide Aperture

In order to create bokeh, you need to use a wide aperture – that is, bring down your f/stop to a lower setting. Some lenses will only go down to f/4.5, which is not good for bokeh. You want a lens that can open up to at least f/2.8 (unless you’re dealing with a telephoto lens) in order to have some fantastic bokeh in your photos.

 

Ethereal Forest

Photo by Christopher O’Donnell

A fantastic lens capable of producing some stunning bokeh-filled images is the 50mm f/1.8 – also known as the Nifty Fifty. This extremely inexpensive lens is the perfect addition to any photographer’s collection – especially if you’re looking for some authentic bokeh.

 

Get Close to Your Subject

A shallow depth of field – a necessary ingredient of bokeh – is not only dependent on a wide aperture, but also the distance between your camera and your subject. The closer you are to your main focal point, the more shallow your background will appear – thus, more opportunity for some well-defined bokeh.

 

Create Space From Your Background

Just like the distances between your main focal point and your camera, the distance between your focal point and your background is important to bokeh as well. The farther your subject is from its background, the more bokeh you’ll get.

 

bokeh

Photo by Steve-h

Light!

A wide aperture and balanced distances only sets up the stage for bokeh – it doesn’t create it. The source of bokeh is light or reflected light – whether it be light coming in through leaves in a tree or reflected off of surfaces. The stronger the light or reflection, the more defined your bokeh will be. This is why bokeh is more often seen when the sun is at an angle (early morning and late evenings), or when you can see your light sources – such as street lamps or light reflected off of surfaces.

In the image below, light from the sun was filtered through the leaves in the background, creating some well-defined bokeh.

 autumn light

 Photo by Christopher O’Donnell

When searching for bokeh, try to follow the light to wield the most dramatic results – streetlights, sun reflecting on the water, and any other bright source of light will work to help create some outstanding bokeh for your image.

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  1. LIT

    i know this is basic, but thanks for refreshing my mind to this tip. :)

    • Reply
  2. Mark

    Thanks for posting this article, this is very helpful! My success with trying to bring some clear, colorful bokeh into my images has been hit-and-miss at best, but this post clears up some things for me. Especially your advice about shooting in the early morning or late evening when the sun is at an angle.

    • Reply
  3. Bevan

    Great article, whether it’s common knowledge or not , any article that justifies me buying another lens ( especially inexpensive ones ) is good with me. I’ve been putting off buying a nifty fifty but I think it’s time :)

    • Reply
  4. julian

    I bought one nifty fifty and i cant wait to star bokehing.
    Sorry mi english i an Argentino and never study the lenguage.

    • Reply
  5. Galih Jati

    This article is really help me in creating nice bokeh picture.. thanks

    • Reply

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