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.
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!
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.
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?