How to create Bokeh images.

Bokeh comes from a Japanese word meaning blur or haze, is most commonly pronounced “bouquet” Steps required to produce effect:

  1. Shallow depth of field
  2. Position of foreground to subject to background
  3. Light
  4. Shutter speed
  5. Composition
  6. Lens effects.


Santa enjoying the lights









1. The key to achieving bokeh is a shallow depth of field. To achieve this it is best to use aperture priority mode, which will be A or Av on your camera. You need to choose the largest aperture, which means the lowest f stop. Around f2.8 is good but can still be achieved with up to f6.3 You can experiment with settings between these. 2. The position of the object in relation to the background and the camera. You want to be as close to the object as you can while having the background as far away as possible. 3. Bokeh is all about the light, so this part is important. It works best if you have pin sharp lights in the background and that is as far away from the subject as possible ( but you still need to be able to see it:)) The background behind these lights should be as dark as possible. Christmas lights are a great example of this. You also need to make sure that your subject is lit as well, you can achieve this with natural lighting or put a lamp to the side of the object and maybe even an overhead light, again experiment. While on the subject of light, be sure to set your white balance to the correct setting. Fir Christmas lights that would be incandescent or tungsten. 4. Your shutter speed should be at least 1/30, so if it is lower than this you may have to increase your ISO. 5. If you are using a telephoto lens, ie focal length 200mm then you will need the background to be a long way away, however if you use a 50mm focal length and get close to your subject then background may only need to be a few feet away. The lens and the quality of the lens affect the outcome of the bohek. Cheaper glass or lenses with fewer blades in the shutter mechanism will give you a hexagonal bokeh, while higher quality glass and more blades will make it more rounded. Which is better is purely subjective. 6. Bokeh is part of an image, not the image, so before you look for the bokeh effect you should make sure you have an interesting subject, a good composition, correct lighting for object, clean lens and that your subject focus is spot on, when you have these, then it is time to look for the bokeh. 7. You can make custom bokeh shapes by cutting or stamping out shapes on black cardboard and then taping it to the front of the lens like a lens cap, but the cutout needs to be smaller than the appature to work. About the size of a 5 cent piece or a dime. Again experiment to see the different effects. 8. Creative Composition is the final step and this is where you try to find a way to tie the foreground object to the bokeh. For example a cup and saucer and the bokeh looking like steam coming out of it. Play around with the perspective.   Tips Decrease your depth of field to increase the blur or increase the depth of field to decrease the blur. The closer you are to the subject and the further the subject is from the background the stronger the effect will be. Often it is best to manual focus to get your focus spot on. Use a tripod and remember that with modern cameras you need to turn the image stabilisation off in your camera and lens when you use a tripod or it causes undesired movement. If your lens stops down to f1.4 or f1.8, still use f2.8. You can try the lower settings, but it doesn’t usually look as good. Variables: Lens focal length, lens quality, shutter speed, ISO, distance to background and distance to object and to some degree lighting used. Non Variable: Large aperture, in other words small f stop. Ie f2.8

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