By the end of this section you will be able to identify what Bokeh is and how to achieve it with your photography.

Bokeh simply means to blur.  So to understand bokeh, all you need to know is that it is a fancy word for saying you want to blur the background and possibly foreground from your subject which will obviously be in focus.  To achieve good bokeh all you need to consider is the following:

3 Ways to achieve good bokeh

  1. Shoot with a prime lens, for example a 35mm, 50mm, 80mm etc.
  2. Shoot with the lens wide open f/2.8, f/2, f/1.8 or lower.
  3. Increase the distance between your background and subject.

For those that would like to know a little more…

Bokeh is pronounced BOH-kay and essentially can be considered as an aesthetic blur or simply put those blurry splotches in the out of focus areas.  These out of focus areas draw your eye to the key subject in the image. 

The blurry bits are a result of a shallow depth of field, the quality and feel of the blur is called bokeh. Photographers love to argue, some will say bokeh is the quality of the circular light reflections on the area, others believe it is about the quality of the overall out of focus area and not just the reflections and highlights.  Who cares, your main thought should be on creating an aesthetically pleasing image.

The type of lens you use is going to determine the size as well as the shape of the visible bokeh.  Some lenses produce a better bokeh than others.  The bokeh is usually seen in the highlights of the image.  If your lens has circular shaped diaphragm blades, those blurry splotches that will control aperture, you will have softer rounder orbs in the out of focus highlights, a lens with an aperture that has a hexagonal shape will reflect that shape in the highlights.

The faster your lens the better as it is the lens and not the camera that renders good bokeh, ideally you want to use a lens with a fast aperture, f/1.4, f1.8 and f/2 are the ideal lenses, but a prime lens with f2.8 should suffice.  Fast prime lenses usually give the best bokeh. 

So to achieve bokeh have some distance between your subject and the background, use a fast prime lens and try to open the aperture wider than f/2.8

Practical exercise 

Find a model, even if it is your mum or dad, find some fairy lights put them up on a wall or in a tree, take out your prime lens, or hire one, open your shutter wider than f/2.8 and start practising.  Be very careful of your focal point as you are shooting very wide, so ensure that you focus on the eye closest to the camera lens.