Bokeh – Doing it the right way

The term “bokeh” refers to the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and it is not uncommon for those new to photography to start off their new found hobby with the unhealthy practice of “bokeh hunting”.


The Unhealthy Practice

One must understand that the key to good photography is about exposure, composition and lighting but unfortunately the Internet has a significantly greater population of “digital imaging enthusiasts” that photographers.

More often than not, you will see these enthusiasts propagating “creamy bokeh” and all, and to make things worse, creamy bokeh shots are often the most praised. With the factors above, the newbies are then made to think “more bokeh = better photo”, hence comes the onslaught of horrible photos of close ups of random subjects with creamy bokeh as a result of “bokeh hunting”. To make matters worse, the newbies probably have been admiring “bokeh intensive” photos even before they got their feet wet in photography.

Just remember – first thing to learn is exposure correct. After that, it’s about learning composition and lighting. Focusing on “out-of-focus areas” is not a good practice. 🙂

Getting Your Bokeh

Achieving bokeh is not difficult at all, in fact it’s very easy as bokeh is already part of an image as long as the settings are correct.

The wider the aperture, the longer the lens, the closer the subject (in focus) and the further the background – the more bokeh you get. A lens with more aperture blades will also result in better looking bokeh that is less distracting.

*The above image shows good usage of bokeh to keep background separated yet remain within context of the subject.* | Source : Photosfeedback

The Proper Use of Aperture

The key usage of aperture is to control Depth of Field, this is contrary to newbies’ belief that it’s to control bokeh. One must keep in mind that bokeh is the result of Depth of Field, the wider the depth of field results in less bokeh and vice versa.

Depth of field is key to many forms of photography. Take portraiture for example, a photo won’t look good if the nose of the subject is the only area in focus while all other facial features seems blurred out. In stock photography, one of the major reasons of rejection is the lack of Depth of Field.

*Read more about aperture at : Knowing Aperture and How To Use It

Putting Bokeh To Good Use

Bokeh should not be your focus but that doesn’t mean it can’t be put to good use. Bokeh is a good way to separate the background from the subject and it also helps make the background less distracting.

Source : Photosfeedback

Take for example the photo above, just look at how the bokeh of the background blends into a soothing shade of green.

Ideally a photograph should have a good balance between depth of field and bokeh without jeopardizing the capture of the frame as aperture also affects the exposure that could result in a failed capture.

For example, I took the photo below with a 50mm f1.4 lens with the aperture set to around f/3.2. My intended result is to have the subject in focus and with sufficient depth of field, not only to show the details but sufficient to accommodate for the subject’s forward movement. And not only that, I also wanted it to have sufficient details on the background so viewers can see the brands. If I had gone for f/1.4, the image would be far less forgiving when it comes to depth of field and the brands at the background would not be identifiable anymore.

Source : goldfries’ Facebook Album

I hope this article has been educational. If you have some BOKEH photos and wondering whether they’re properly done, do remember to send them to Photosfeedback, just 1 week to go before I decide on who wins the Transcend 16GB Wi-Fi SD Card (Class 10)