How to Get a (Gorgeous) Bokeh Impact: Step-By-Step Guide

How to Get a (Gorgeous) Bokeh Effect: Step-By-Step Guide

how to get a gorgeous bokeh effect (a guide)

Do you want to catch photos that feature a spectacular bokeh effect?

You’ve come to the correct place.

In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to understand bokeh, including:

  • What it is
  • The perfect bokeh camera settings
  • H ow you can produce bokeh for jaw-dropping results

I’ll also include lots of bokeh examples along the way, and that means you know exactly what to expect in your own images.

If you’re ready to become a bokeh master, then let’s get started!

What is bokeh in photography?

Bokeh refers to the out-of-focus areas of an image, especially areas that are heavily blurred.

For instance, look at the background of this shot:

girl with beautiful background bokeh effect

Do you see how the greenery behind the subject has turned into a creamy, smooth blur? This looks nice, right? That’s the power of the bokeh impact.

Note that, generally speaking, the term “bokeh” refers to any background (or foreground) blur in an image. To get beautiful bokeh (when the out-of-focus areas are even and stunning), or you can have bad bokeh (when the particular out-of-focus areas are too comprehensive or appear jagged). Later on in this article, I’ll explain what causes good versus bad bokeh, but for now, just know that not all bokeh looks similarly gorgeous.

The 5 factors determining the bokeh effect in your photos

Beginners frequently struggle to capture lovely bokeh effects, and it’s because bokeh can be complicated ; it’s not as simple as adjusting one setting on your camera and calling this a day.

Rather, the bokeh quality inside your photos is influenced by five factors:

  1. Aperture size (i. e., the size of the particular hole in the lens that lets in light)
  2. Lens choice
  3. Distance involving the camera and your subject
  4. Distance between the subject and the background
  5. Quality of the background

Let us look at each factor in turn, starting with:

1 . Aperture size

The aperture is a ditch in the lens, and the size corresponds to your camera’s f-number setting.

The f-number such as f/1. 8 or f/2. 8 will give you a wide aperture, while a higher f-number such as f/11 or even f/16 will give you a limited aperture. Ultimately, a wide aperture will create a better bokeh effect – because the broader the aperture, the more background blur the lens can produce.

(A narrow aperture, however, produces images that are sharpened from foreground to history; that’s why landscape photographers nearly always shoot at f/8 and beyond. They want everything in focus! )

So when you see wonderful bokeh images, they’re usually produced at f/4 and wider (and most are created at f/2. 8, f/1. 8, or even f/1. 2).

Unfortunately, not every lenses allow you to shoot at ultra-wide apertures, as I describe below:

2 . Lens choice

Certain lenses produce gorgeous, creamy bokeh. Other lenses are rather underwhelming within their bokeh quality. Why?

It has to do with many factors.

Very first, the larger the lens’s maximum aperture, the better the bokeh quality. As discussed over, if you can open your lens’s aperture really wide, the bokeh will look great – whereas a closed-down aperture will produce nervous, entertaining bokeh that doesn’t complement the subject.

Following, some lenses offer more circular apertures, whereas additional lenses have hexagonal, septagonal, or octagonal apertures. Due to the fact aperture shape generally determines the shape of the bokeh, the more circular the aperture, the particular smoother the bokeh effect.

(Note that aperture shape is usually primarily determined by the aperture blade count, which you can find on the specification sheet of every lens. More blades equal a more circular aperture, which corresponds to more attractive bokeh. Got it? )

Third, the lengthier the lens, the more this compresses the background, and the blurrier the background becomes. With bokeh, longer equals better .

So for the best bokeh, buy a lens with a long focal length (e. g., 200mm), a wide maximum aperture (e. g., f/2. 8), and plenty of aperture blades (9+).

3. Distance between the camera and your subject

As you get closer to your subject, the background bokeh effect will magnify – and as you phase away from your subject, the particular bokeh effect will vanish.

So the nearer you get, the better the bokeh effect.

Right now, you can get close to your subject in two ways:

You can move toward all of them physically and literally accept the lens close.

Or you can use a telephoto lens with a 300mm, 400mm, or even 800mm focal duration. These lenses will zoom lens right up to your subject (and you don’t have to change your position).

The telephoto lens option is often hassle-free, especially if you’re working with skittish subjects (e. g., birds and wildlife). But occasionally it’s nice to get up close and personal, especially if you’re taking a more intimate perspective (as I often recommend for portrait photography ).

4. Distance between the subject as well as the background

In case your background is close to your own subject, it will be less blurry – and hence the bokeh effect will be weaker.

But if your background is far from your issue, it will be a lot more blurred, and will generally look very nice.

Say you’re photographing a child in front of a hardwood. If you put them just ahead of the tree (so the start barking touches their back), both the child and the tree is going to be in focus, and you will get very little bokeh to speak of. But if you bring the child out and away from the tree, the start barking will begin to blur.

In fact , increasing the subject-background distance is one of the easiest ways to create better bokeh, especially if you don’t own a wide-aperture lens. The farther your subject moves in the background, the more beautiful the end result.

5. High quality of the background

Some backgrounds are easy to obnubilate, and other backgrounds are much more challenging.

This frequently works as you’d expect, where uniform elements (e. h., a forest of eco-friendly leaves) create very clean bokeh, while messy, spectacular elements (e. g., a crowd of people, cars, and houses) create very distracting bokeh.

But there are other background qualities to consider, as well.

For instance, if you compose your image so that the light shines via an area of the background, you’ll usually capture stunning bokeh results. That’s how you can get a photo like this one:

bokeh effect stunning background

Do you see how the light through the sky shines through the leaves in the background? It creates an extremely well-defined, circular bokeh impact, which a lot of photographers love .

Bokeh digital photography factors: putting it all together

The 5 factors I discussed above work jointly to achieve ideal bokeh quality.

So even if you can’t adjust one factor (e. g., lens quality), you can still adjust other elements to get a nice result.

Of course , the best bokeh effect comes from maximizing every single one of the factors discussed over, though this isn’t always feasible. Sometimes, you need a narrow aperture for an unrelated reason, or you need the subject to stay near to the background, or you can’t obtain close, etc . And that’s where you’ll need to think about the other bokeh factors plus work with the ones you can manage.

How to accomplish nice bokeh: the step by step process

I have already explained the theory behind good bokeh, but in this section, I’d like to share, within practical terms, how to get the best bokeh for any given scenario.

Step 1 : Make use of the right lens

Bokeh starts with lens choice. Go for a lens having a wide maximum aperture (ideally, f/2. 8 or wider, but f/4 can work, too).

If possible, choose a lens with a high number of aperture blades (remember: the greater circular the aperture shape, the better! ).

And go with a standard or telephoto focal duration, not wide angle.

2 .   Pick a large aperture

Bokeh is only affected by a single camera setting: the aperture. So make it count!

For the strongest bokeh effect, dial in your lens’s lowest f-number. (Though in case your lens goes to f/1. 2 or f/1. 4 and you’re shooting from up close, you may want to narrow the aperture just a bit to prevent your subject matter from going out of focus. )

If you’re unsure how to adjust the aperture, by the way, consult your camera manual. You’ll generally need to shift the mode dial to Manual mode or even Aperture Concern mode , then rotate the corresponding aperture call until it gives you the result you want (though some lens offer an aperture ring on the barrel, which you can consider manually set the aperture).

3.   Get close to your subject matter

Determine the topic you want to photograph, then get close. Remember, you can possibly move close physically, or you can use a long lens to get a tighter perspective.

If you have the time, try each; the effect will be slightly different in each case (longer lenses compress the background, which gives smooth bokeh, but you might lose a bit of intimacy), and you could find you prefer one look over the other.

4.   Position your subject for the best background

If you can move your subject matter (or, in the case of portraits, if you can ask your subject to move), then put them in front of the uniform, non-distracting background.

And bring them far away from the background, therefore the bokeh effect is more noticable.

If you can’t move your subject, after that try to adjust your perspective . Simply by getting down low, you are able to remove distracting background details from the frame; by shifting to the side, you can increase subject-background distance; and so on.

5.   Dial within your remaining settings for a good exposure

At this stage, you’ve done everything you may for the best-possible bokeh.

So determine the remaining settings you need for the good exposure (e. grams., your shutter speed as well as your ISO ). Focus on your subject. Check one last time for you to ensure the background doesn’t include any distractions.

And take your photo!

After you catch a shot or two, inspect camera’s LCD. Pay consideration to the quality of the history. Ask yourself: How does the bokeh look? Is there anything I could change to make it better?

Make the necessary changes, then shoot again.

Bokeh image examples

Beneath, I’ve included a few pictures with nice bokeh so you can see exactly what you can achieve with all the right approach.

First, we have a photograph with the lens focused somewhere between the foreground grasses and the background people. Note that both the foreground and background are blurred in a good bokeh pattern, though the obnubilate isn’t incredibly strong.

Bokeh photography example family in the grass

In this following shot, I’ve focused on the particular subject’s feet and used a wide aperture. Note how the feet are sharp, however the rest of the image is blurry (it’s a fun trick which i highly recommend you try! ):

selective focusing bokeh

Furthermore, I occasionally prefer the bokeh in the foreground, not really the background. Instead of focusing on a detailed subject, I focus on a distant subject (the dad and son) but include a large object in the foreground (the tree). A wide aperture serves to blur out the foreground object, and the background subject looks nice and sharp.

Bokeh in foreground example

Of course , there will be times when bokeh isn’t desirable. Sometimes you need the entire shot in concentrate from front to back, like in this particular family portrait:

photo of family with no bokeh

So while bokeh is excellent, and while I highly recommend you learn to create a nice bokeh effect, don’t get therefore obsessed that you use it on a regular basis!

How to get the bokeh effect: final words

Hopefully, you now feel ready to head out with your camera and capture several stunning bokeh.

Just remember to choose the correct lens, adjust your camera settings, position yourself well, and pick the right background.

Soon, you’ll be shooting bokeh like a pro!

Now over to you:

Do you plan to take some beautiful bokeh pictures? Which strategies will you try to use? Share your thoughts (and images! ) within the comments below.

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Annie Tao

Annie Tao

is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer within the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing authentic smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography to get more tips or inspiration. Remain connected with her on her Facebook page

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