What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is a photography term that describes the way a camera renders the out-of-focus points in a photo. You’ve probably seen a picture that had twinkling bulbs of light in the background; that is a prime example of nice bokeh. When the background of an image is blurred in such a way that it is pleasing to the eye, rather than a distraction, that is called good bokeh. Bokeh is a funny word, but it is a very important quality of professional looking images. The term sometimes refers to the blur itself, or to the quality of the blur.

You can blur the background of an image by using a shallow depth of field. It’s easy to do with a digital SLR camera, since all you have to do is set your lens to the lowest aperture, then bump it up one or two f-stops to sharpen the overall image.

If you don’t have an SLR and you want to mimic the blurred background look, you can do so with your photo editing software. If you are using Photoshop, you can use the selection tool to create a new layer with just the subject. Apply the lens blur filter to the background layer to create the effect you want. Another way to fake bokeh is to manually blur the background with a blur brush tool. Depending on the photo, this can be fairly time consuming, but it may be worth the effort if it results in a beautiful portrait.

Good bokeh can really make for a great portrait. It is especially useful for removing distractions from the background on an image. A nice blurred background really makes your subject stand out. It can also add a little drama to a picture. Situations where you would not want to employ this technique is when shooting a landscape where detail is important because the background is the subject.

This entry was posted in Techniques, Tips & Tricks by Kim Neyer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kim Neyer

Kim is a freelance writer, photographer and stay at home mom to her one-year-old son, Micah. She has been married to her husband, Eric, since 2006. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, with a degree in English Writing. In her free time she likes to blog, edit photos, crochet, read, watch movies with her family, and play guitar.