What is Bokeh and why should you care?

Recently I’ve seen many pictures of new photographers using online editing tools or home software to create the blur or better known as bokeh on their images. In a photo the area that is focused the best is usually the sharpest, bokeh is more like the opposite, its the area away from the most focused and is the “blur”. The term bokeh is used to describe the quality of the blur. The bokeh is normally a distance away from the area that is most at focus/sharpest, so each lens will create a different type of bokeh.

Many people rarely notice the bokeh, until they realize that its the lens that creates good bokeh. The blur can be recreated with a software, but its not the same as one created at the time the picture was taken with a real lens! Lately I’ve seen so many pictures on Modelmayhem where it’s obvious they are creating the bokeh or enhancing it with software.

Good bokeh is usually planned and can be created with many situations. In the image on the left, the background was much brighter than the subject, but I knew that if I blurred it correctly I would still be able to show that it was a lake with trees. Notice the bokeh on the trees, bushes and water. Its visible but does not take away from the main subject. Some may consider the small circular type of blur to be good bokeh, I tend to like whichever is more pleasing to the eye that it enhances the sharpest points of the image to be “good” bokeh.

Bokeh is most noticeable in images with areas that are bright or have some sort of highlight. In the image to the left, the lighter background allows us to view the bokeh better. But of course it happens in non “highlight” areas, for example the image on the right, because of the solid green color of the grass, the quality of the bokeh is more of a solid color. Using a larger aperture (2.8) I blurred the background significantly to the point that it resembled a backdrop. In the image on the left, I didn’t use a 2.8 setting, it was more in the range of 4-5.6. because of the distance and light.

So next time you’re getting ready to take that picture, take a pause and think about how you want your final image to look, take a risk and move your camera out of “P”rogram/”A”uto mode!

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