How To Get The Best Bokeh

How To Get The Best Bokeh

Bokeh Is Created By You.

Can this be true? We all know that the bokeh is a tribute of your lens and some say the more expensive the lens the better the bokeh. I don't entirely agree with this so read on and I will tell you why. First bokeh is just a Japanese word for 'Blurry Background' or everything that is behind your subject and not in focus.

Bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of the out of focus area of the image. It’s how the camera renders the lighted areas that are out of focus. And differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape causes the area to blur, creating the look that’s sometimes aesthetically pleasing.

So what you have in the background that is out of focus will be the bokeh and that is all up to you. So you create the bokeh and the camera and lens render it in a pleasing way.

A Fly on some grass in the light of dawn
A Fly on some grass in the light of dawn.
Exif Data. f5.6. 1/200th. ISO-800.

Depth Of Field.

It is very important that you understand what DOF is. This stands for 'Depth Of Field' and it means how much is in focus in your image and that is all controlled by you. If you set your aperture stop at f22 then the background will be in sharper focus than if you set the aperture at f2.8.

In the shot above of the fly on the grass the DOF is very shallow due to the setting of f5.6. Had I used f2.8 the background would have been even softer but I wanted some definition to be seen, and of course had I used say f16 then there would be too much definition and that would distract from the fly.

Using The same Objects as Bokeh

Using more leaves as bokeh
Using more of the same as bokeh
Exif Data. f6.3. 1/125th. ISO-250.

Most bokeh is made up of the same object as the focal point, like shooting grass, flowers and leaves. In my photo above of the leaf I have used other leaves as the background and also got the light of the sun in the shot. By moving my camera around I selected the best composition for the image, so you see once again the bokeh was all up to me.

You will also see that shooting at dawn or sunset will give the best light and colours to your image as well as finding the right leaf to pose for you. Also best to shoot when it is not windy.

Getting A Dappled Background for Bokeh
Getting A Dappled Background.
Exif Data. f8. 1/500th. ISO-200.

A Dappled Light Bokeh

In the shot above of the fern and wild flowers it is the light coming through the leaves and branches of a hedge that makes the beautiful dappled light. I used a 200mm lens for this and stood further away from the fern and flowers.

It is also worth noting that the greater the distance between the object you are shooting and the background objects creating the bokeh the greater the blur will be. Also the foreshortening effect of a zoom lens can make the background appear closer than it actually is.

Trial and error is the only way to see what will happen so take lots of shots at different settings and with different lenses and study them later on your PC and look closely at the Exif data.

Macro of leaves and light
Doing it in Macro.
Exif Data. f9. 1/20th. ISO-100

Doing it in Macro

You might be forgiven here for thinking that the closer you get to a subject like shooting in macro the smaller the aperture setting should be but this is just not so.

In my shot above of the 'blow on it and make a wish thing' (Dandelion) I used f9 and the DOF is still very shallow, f9 on a landscape gets everything in focus. In the shot the background grass and flowers causing the bokeh are just inches away.

Depth of Field and lens focal lengths are stuff that you can learn through study. And that just like the bokeh is all up to you. But it is great fun to be out there doing it, especially at dawn when it is so peaceful.

macro of flowers and best bokeh
Getting right down to it.
Exif Data. f4.5. 1/500th. ISO-400

Get Down Low

Get down low for the shot. I am sure you have heard this many times. Shooting flowers and kids is the same thing, the pictures look better when taken from an angle they are not normally viewed at.

When shooting for the best bokeh using the 'A' or Aperture Priority Mode is how you control the DOF or Depth of Field. A big # like f22 gets everything in focus. A small # like f2.8 gets a little bit in focus.

And then there is everything in between that depends on how far away the camera is from the subject and how far away the objects causing the bokeh effect are from the subject.

By varying the f-stop we get creative expression, we get artistic photos, we become very, very clever photographers.

It is all in the Light.

Aperture Priority for best bokeh photos.
The best bokeh is the light.
Exif Data. f5. 1/15th. ISO-400

When shooting things to make bokeh shots the foreground is not always important. In the shot above of a small blackberry shoot just a few inches high, it is just something for me to focus the camera on.

Then I can gently move it out of the way and shoot just the background bokeh as an image which I can later use as background for something else. I also do this when I see good cloud formations.

For the best Bokeh think 'FOCUS'. Big f-number is more in focus (harder) and a little f-number is less in focus (softer).

If you are going into photography in a serious way you will need Adobe Photoshop or maybe Adobe Elements or maybe another similar program. I use Adobe Photoshop and it helps a lot to be able to correct and enhance the photo as I always shoot in RAW format as should you. RAW gives the most photographic details in the image and more is always better, right.