The word “bokeh” is the Japanese for “blurry”. So when we’re talking about bokeh, we mean the quality of the out-of-focus image between the subject or object and the background. Note that we’re not referring to seeing a “blurred background”; this is simply a background that’s out of focus. Bokeh is an image composition technique.
Lights appearing in the background or in an out-of-focus area are one of the fundamental aspects of this technique. With the bokeh effect, it’s usually going to be an image containing a main subject or object that’s in focus with an out-of-focus background of lights, creating a composition.
There are two basic principles you should follow to create a good bokeh effect:
- ONE: have a lens with a large aperture
- TWO: Take advantage of the distances between the subject and the background
- How it works and how to produce bokeh
ONE: have a lens with a large aperture
As a rule, the wider the aperture on the lens, the better the bokeh effect will be.
If you have a Canon camera, I recommend using a 50mm fixed lens, with a 1.8 aperture. This produces very good quality bokeh at a fairly good price. The only disadvantage is that the lens is made of plastic, so take good care of it because if you drop it… well, let’s not think about that. The point is: treat it like your baby!
TWO: Take advantage of the distances between the subject and the background
If you aren’t able to get ahold of a lens like the one mentioned above, the trick is to play around with the distance between the subject and the background. Seek out places where you can move the subject away from the background by some distance. Moving the subject further away from the background gives you a shallower depth of field, making for better bokeh. 😉
How it works and how to produce bokeh
To produce a good bokeh, you need to consider the distance between the subject and the background lights.
Here are a few examples to demonstrate this further:
The bokeh effect that you see below is not very strong. Why? It’s all about the aperture.
In this shot the lens aperture is 8. To improve the effect, we have to lower the aperture. That will help to produce a much stronger bokeh.
Here’s how the image changes as I open up the aperture with a lower value:
Do you think it looks better as I open up the aperture?
In the last picture, the bokeh looks rounder, by which I mean how the lights look brighter under the effect of bokeh.
And here’s another basic principle: the more you open up the aperture, the rounder the bokeh. Conversely, closing the aperture will produce a heptagon-shaped bokeh. Here’s a comparison:
So which one should you choose? The truth is that you can use this however you want. It’s really a matter of individual taste. Play around with it, test things out, and then decide which bokeh effect to use.
Also keep in mind that, as well as producing bokeh behind the subject, you can also create it in front of the subject. Take a look at this:
In these shots, I moved the object backwards and brought in the fairy lights. Check out the examples.
And if you bring the lights closer to the camera, the end result will have this effect:
It looks cute, doesn’t it? And it’s really easy, too.
I hope these tips will help you make a neat bokeh effect in your photos and videos. And now you can also dust off those old Christmas lights from your storage boxes. Take advantage of this resource and start taking photos, trying new things, and being creative.
Oh, and if you take some good photos by following these tips, go ahead and post them on Instagram and tag me: @ hannstagram1
Don’t forget to check out my Youtube channel to discover more tutorials to help you take better photos.