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I’m OK When You’re BOKEH!

“Bokeh” is a Japanese word meaning “blur”, and in photography it is a great way to set off your foreground by blurring the background, as in the picture above.  It is especially good for portraits of people or pets or flowers because it isolates the main subject from the background.


A Bokeh is best achieved by:

a) using a wide aperture “fast” lens like a 50mm F/1.4 or F/1.8, at its biggest aperture and getting close to your subject.  The picture above was done with an 85mm, F/1.4 ; or

b) using the longest focal length of an 18-55mm or 24-70mm lens, at its widest aperture (smallest number, like F/5.6), and getting as close to your subject as possible to frame just the head and shoulders.

Some important tips to remember to achieve a nice Bokeh:

The further the background is from your subject, the smoother the Bokeh.

  • The distance between the camera and the subject controls the depth of field, so the shorter the distance between your camera and the subject, the shallower the depth of field will be, and the background will be blurred. (The Bokeh really depends on that short distance, because you can shoot a landscape scene with an aperture of F/1.8, and there will be no background blur.)
  • If you cannot get close to your subject, but still want to isolate it with a background blur, then use a long focal length lens. The lens focal length changes the perceived depth of field, so a longer focal length will appear to give you a shallower depth of field, because the distance between the camera and the subject is compressed.
  • The photo below was taken with a Panasonic Lumix G85, which is a mirrorless camera, using a 14-140mm zoom. (This provided an effective focal length of 280mm, since the G85 has a cropped sensor.) The dahlia was in the middle of a flowerbed, surrounded by other blooming dahlias. By “zooming in” and isolating the back of the dahlia, a beautiful bokeh was created using the other blooming dahlias behind it.

Happy Shooting!

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