Bokeh come from Japanese word “boke”, which means “blur” or “haze” or “boke-aji”, “the blur quality”. To put it simple to understand “Bokeh” is the blur or out of focus area of an image, like the picture of my son and my wife above, the “Blurry” part or the “out of focus” area in the picture above is what people called “Bokeh”. I don’t want to talk about good Bokeh or bad Bokeh here, I just want to talk about how to get a Bokeh, different lenses with difference focal length and different aperture will render Bokeh differently, for the picture above I use 50mm lens shooting at f1.8.
The Bokeh in the picture above is “real” meaning that, I did not get that Bokeh from Photoshop. It is captured in the camera. Read on if you wanted to know more how to get it.
First of all use wide aperture, here in the picture above I use 50mm lens and open up the aperture wide at f1.8. Don’t expect to get a Bokeh like this if you decided to use aperture f22. If you are using aperture f22, then almost everything will be in focus, almost everything will look sharp and when that happens, your subject will not going to stand out from the background and your picture will look “flat” with no depths.
Remember that, use wide aperture. If your lens only have f4 as your widest aperture then use it. Usually Kit lens comes with aperture like f3.5-f4, if that is the case, use f3.5, I mean use the widest aperture that your lens have.
Next watch a distance between you and your subject and the distance between your subject and the background. You are not going to get this kind of Bokeh, I’m referring to the picture above, if the distance between your subject and the background is just one feet away. For the picture above the distance between the subject and the background is approximately ten meters away, and here’s the tips, the closer you and your subject, the better the Bokeh.
I mean if I stand back away, far away from my wife and get a full body shot of them, I’m not going to get this kind of Bokeh, so I’ve to get closer to them and that’s why, I rarely post a picture of my son in full body, I will not get a “creamy” Bokeh If I do that, so the tips is to get really closer to your subject and make sure the distance between your subject and background are far away.
Just remember this simple tips, get closer to your subject and make sure your subject are far away from the background, if possible somewhere around five to ten meters from the subject. The other thing is make sure your background have some “light”, maybe a reflected light, like this picture above a light that reflect from the green foliage make an interesting Bokeh, if it is dark, then it would not look so interesting, in fact when I took this shot, I wait for a few minutes until there is a bright light hit the foliage to get that beautiful reflection.
It will be so much easier to get a beautiful Bokeh at night especially if you shoot in the heart of a city centre where there is a lot of neon light that coming from rows of shopping malls or from the street light and also from the light that coming from the cars on the busy street.
Hopefully you get some basic ideas about how to get Bokeh in photography from this article, actually I do get few email asking me about Bokeh, they think I use 300mm lens to get this kind of Bokeh, most of my son pictures were taken with 50mm lens and usually I will shoot with aperture f1.8 and by this time you should know already why I like to get closer to my son when photographing him, it is not a rocket science kind of thing if you know the fundamental. With a little bit of creativity you can get a beautiful Bokeh even with a cheap 50mm lens if you know how to and by this time you should…
One more thing, to get the color or The Tone like the picture of my son above I use a technique in my eBook, The Photoshop Secret of The Tone. In the eBook, there is a tutorial about how to get the tone with Curves and RGB Channels. Get My eBook HERE
Get The Secret HERE