What is Bokeh?

Ever hear a photographer say “look at the bokeh in that photograph” and wonder what the heck they were talking about? Well, what they’re referring to is the dreamy soft background in a photo.

More specifically, they’re referring to the quality of the blur or quality of the dreamy soft background. Certain lenses and cameras produce better bokeh than others.

what is bokeh, close up image of a rock surround by ice

Why use bokeh?

Good photographs are supposed to be sharp, not blurry, aren’t they? So, what’s up with bokeh? Although the background is purposely blurry, the subject is still meant to be in focus.

We want to create an effect like this to draw attention to our subject. This way, we’re literally pulling the viewer into the photograph and showing the viewer what we want them to focus on. They really don’t have a choice because the rest of the photo is literally a blur.

Fun Fact:  the origin of bokeh is Japanese and it literally translates to blur!

close up of a pink floral image taken at the Denver Botanical Garden

How do you pronounce “bokeh”?

I think it’s pronounced “bow-kay”, but you can watch the attached video to see all the different pronunciations and decide for yourself. Personally, I keep saying “bow-kuh”, which I’m pretty sure is incorrect.

How do we achieve bokeh?

First off, it depends on the type of camera and lens we use to create bokeh. With a DSLR, we’ll want to use a wide Aperture like f2 or even better f1.4. The goal is to create a shallow depth of field.

With a point and shoot camera or phone, you’ll want to experiment a bit and see what works best with your equipment. With my P&S camera, I set it to the “food” setting and zoom in. The more I zoom in on my subject, the more background blur I create. Good bokeh has a soft dreamy feel to the background, and it’s something we see a lot of in food photography.

Blueberry Oatmeal Squares
Bokeh is used frequently in food photography

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to creating bokeh, but I do have fun trying. How about you? Do you like creating images with bokeh?

#what is bokeh, #How to capture bokeh, #photography tips, #blurry background,


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40 thoughts on “What is Bokeh?

  1. This is the first time I hear the term “bokeh”. Thanks for the tips on how to produce this effect with a P&S camera, Ingrid. It’s the perfect technique for photographing wildflowers. Although… we’re a bit too far north now for wildflowers. Just arrived in Page, so I’ll have to reacquaint myself with your posts from April 2018. 🙂


  2. Hi, Ingrid – A sincere thank you for this mini-photography lesson. I don’t remember hearing the word ‘Bokey’ previously. Your explanations are very clear and useful. And your examples are excellent! Thank you for sharing this with us.


    1. Thank you Mary. I’m still having a tough time pronouncing it “bow-kay” instead of “bow-kuh”. I’ll work on it 🤣


  3. I knew about the effect, but didn’t know the name… Not sure if I can pronounce it yet 😉😉
    We picked up our new 5th wheel on Monday…..
    Already broke a row of drawers in the slide (dealer didn’t shut @viewing), the fireplace and one of the awnings! 😳
    Sigh. Fingers crossed they are ‘manufacturers defects’ 🤞


    1. Ah, welcome to the never ending repairs on an RV. Once you get’er broken in and all the kinks worked out, I’m sure you’ll be happy. 😊 That first year always seems to be the roughest. Even as ‘seasoned’ as we are, we’re starting to freak out about our summer excursion and trying to anticipate failures. First off, we need new tires!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ironically, we weren’t going to go for the warranty 😒 but they lowered the price significantly.
        Yes, getting it off the hitch the 1st time was hilarious… Well, maybe to our neighbors, but not hubby!
        I’m spending lots of time in it on my driveway to hopefully find all the big kinks. 😉


        1. Oh yeah, I remember learning the hitch. There’s a sweet spot for hooking and unhooking that you guys will figure out. Nobody told us that and we looked like fools in the early days when we struggled for 15 to unhook the 5th wheel. Ah, the stories we could tell 😆

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the explanation!
    Now, if they could just bokeh the entire ad that seems to be appearing on WordPress sites (yours too) lately. That bloated, hairy leg doesn’t add anything to a post!


  5. Great lesson on bokeh, Ingrid! Your shots are beautiful! Most of the time I get lucky with shallow depth of field, especially with my phone, but otherwise, bokeh makes for wonderful images!


    1. Thanks Terri. I’ll probably be upgrading my phone soon and then I’ll have a whole new learning curve. I’ve pretty much got the FZ-200 figured out.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was going to name today’s post bokeh butterfly but changed it 😉 As you said, depending on how wide your lens can open (ie. 1.8 vs 4.0) dictates if you get the bokeh balls and sometimes even what shape they may be. Even though I shot my butterfly at F4.5 because of how far away the subject was from it’s background I got the bokeh balls 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome … my camera is limiting which is why I’m teething at the bit to upgrade. But then there’s that learning curve. I’m sure you can help me 😊


  7. I love blurry backgrounds! I also love it with lights in the background that are blurred…Or are bokeh.

    And love that Zinnia! 😉


    1. Agree … love the blurred lights. That Zinnia photo was taken at the Denver Botanical Garden. I’m starting to look forward to our summer excursion to the Midwest … lots of vegetation 🌻

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ingrid, thank you for explaining Bokeh! I’ve been using it for closeups of flowers and small critters for years and never knew there was a name for what I was doing!


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