Photography Tips: 5 Essentials to Get Bokeh

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Bokeh! A special optical effect that almost every photographer is pursuing for. Bokeh is pronounced as “boh-kay” which origin from Japanese that means the something in blur. In photography world, bokeh is defined as how the lens renders the out-of-focus region. The bokeh can be the background that have circular out-of-focus effect or smooth blur out-of-focus rendering background, there are some debating for the definition of the bokeh but we treat both of them as bokeh here.

Circular Bokeh Effect
Circular Bokeh Effect
Smooth Bokeh Rendering

Bokeh is always one of the key reasons that differentiate the DSLR and compact camera because it is very difficult to get these smooth-rendered bokeh from the compact camera. However, there are some peoples who are using DSLR but do not get bokeh effect as well. So we are going to have a look about what is essential to get the bokeh in our shots.

1. Large Aperture

First of all, we need to set our lens to a large aperture like F 4, F 2.8, F 2, F 1.8, F 1.4 and etc. The smaller F value, the larger the aperture is, the smoother rendering of out-of-focus region in our shots, and the more expensive the lens is.

2. Long Focal Length

The longer the focal length is the smoother the bokeh is. If you are using zoom lens, you have to aware of the largest aperture of your zoom lens allows. Usually zoom lens has the largest aperture of F 5.6 or F 6.3 or smaller at its telephoto end, so it will not produce a very pleasant bokeh effect. Therefore, you either get a constant aperture zoom lens like F4 or F 2.8 (the larger constant aperture zoom lens the more it costs you) or get a telephoto prime lens.

Bokeh by 50mm Prime Lens at F 1.8
Bokeh by 50mm Prime Lens (75mm in 35 mm equivalent) at F 1.8

3. Large Size Sensor

In simple word, larger size sensor needs larger lens to allow more light to fully exposure the sensor. It usually easier to get nicer bokeh effect in the shots. Of course, the larger the sensor size is the more expensive the camera is.

Image Sensor Size Comparison
Different Image Sensor Size Comparison

The 3 tips above are regarding the necessary equipment settings, and now we need some shooting techniques to fully utilise the capability of the lens and camera to get the nice bokeh effect.

4. Get Closer to Your Subject

We have to shoot closer to the subject because that will be easier to get the nice pleasant bokeh (or minimum in-focus area) in our shots.

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As the comparison above, the aperture are same set at F 2.8 but the distance that shot the subject will affect the area in focus (pay attention to the alphabets in-focused on the keyboard).

5. Aware of the Background

Although the background is out-of-focus but people will still get distracted if the background is too complex. The tips here is to keep the background simple.

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Besides, it your subject too close to the background then you will not get great bokeh effect as well even you are using large aperture like F 1.8 as below. As you see, the closer the distance between the subject and background the clearer the background object is (the Classical CD collection is the background object here). So another tips here is to keep your subject away from the background as far as possible.

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Bottom Line

Well, the tips above shall give you the dreamy bokeh effect that you are looking for, keep practicing and you will catch the ball. Before the end of the tips today, just FYI that we usually use bokeh to create dramatic background effect or to extract the subject out of the background. I include some of my old shots for demonstration here.

Extraction of Subject
The One
Flower Bunch

That’s all for today tips. Hope you benefit from it and get some great Bokeh in your shots. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it.


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