How to Get the Most Pleasing Bokeh in Your Images

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer SLR Magic Bokehmorphic review photos (7 of 15)

While Bokeh is often used as a crutch to create a beautiful image. When used correctly, however, it can do a terrific job to help tell a story visually. We’re not going to encourage to never stop down. In fact, you need to when telling certain stories with images. However, we are going to let you know about a couple of key secrets on how to get the best from your lens and get the best bokeh.

In fact, we do this as part of our lens testing here at the Phoblographer.

Before we begin, you should note that Bokeh colloquially refers to the quality of the out of focus area in an image. But as years have progressed, it has just come to be adapted to talk about the out of focus area.

Don’t Stop Down Too Much

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Alien Skin Exposure 7 review images Jessica Bokeh sample (1 of 1)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 4.5


Of course, we’re going to tell you that in order to get the best bokeh from your lens you shouldn’t stop it down too much. In some cases, you shouldn’t stop it down at all. However, if you’re leaning towards just getting great bokeh you sometimes sacrifice other parts of the image: like sharpness, color fringing, etc.

In general, we recommend not stopping the lens down more than a stop away from its performance wide open. If the lens’s performance wide open is the depth of field equivalent of f8 on a full frame 35mm sensor, then don’t stop it down at all.

Considerate Composition to Show off Most of the Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 135mm f2 review images (1 of 11)ISO 1001-400 sec at f - 2.0

When composing your images, you’ll need to use the rule of thirds to place your subject in the scene while enveloping them in the bokeh. Careful composition makes them stand out more in the image and also makes the viewer look at the bokeh afterward (in general.

This tip works best when combined with our next one.

Get Close to Your Subject

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A99 images with 135mm f1.8 (1 of 8)ISO 100

With the way that depth of field works, the closer your subject is to the camera and lens, the less will be in focus at a given aperture. It’s the basic fundamental principle of the zone focusing system. If you get close to your subject, the bokeh will be more pronounced than if they’re further away.

Keep this in mind with very wide angles and very telephoto lenses.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.