If you’re brand new to photography, then we’ve got yet another guide for you. This time it’s all about bokeh. Bokeh is something that you’ll hear photographers talk about very often. And most beginners get really obsessed with it. Take it from a guy that’s been taking photos for over 15 years; even after this long, you’ll be obsessed with it in some ways. So in this short post, we’re going to try to explain how bokeh works to you and everything you need to know.
What is Bokeh?
Colloquially, bokeh refers to the quality of the out-of-focus area in an image. But in modern-day vernacular, bokeh instead just refers to the out-of-focus area itself. We regularly say things like, “Look at the bokeh!” And in a situation like that, we’re not talking about the quality of it but instead just that it’s there. Bokeh is an effective story-telling technique that’s used in photos very often and is best used in cinema. By making something out of focus, cinematographers tell you where to pay attention. The same thing is true for photos.
How is it Better Than What My Phone Does?
The bokeh from your camera is a million times better than what your phone does. The way your phone works is by looking at a scene, figuring out what you want in focus, and then applying a type of gaussian blur over the rest of the photo. When you look at the scene, it doesn’t make sense. Actual bokeh works through depth detection. If you and your friends have your faces in all the same distance away from a camera, theoretically, you should all be in focus. But your phone will make it so that only your face is in focus.
With that said, your camera creates bokeh by having you tell it that everything 3 feet away from it should be in focus and nothing else.
How Do I Get It?
There are a few different ways to get bokeh with your camera. The things that you need to keep in mind are the aperture (also known as f-stop) and the distance. The further way your subject is, the more of the scene will be in focus. The closer your subject is, the more you can render the scene out of focus. Apertures also have a lot to do with that. Larger apertures have lower numbers like f1.4 and have the smallest amount of the scene in focus. Smaller apertures have a higher number like f32 and have much more of the scene in focus.
With that logic, you’re going to get way more bokeh at f1.4 than you will at f11.
Generally speaking, if you’ve got a new camera and have something like a 20-50mm or 18-55mm lens, then try to keep your subjects within six feet from your camera. When you focus on them, you can get bokeh in the rest of the scene.
Here’s a cool way of thinking about it: put your finger in front of your face and focus on it with both eyes. Everything else around it will more or less get blurry. Then focus on something further away from you–as you’ll see a whole lot more will be in focus. That’s how your camera lens works to create bokeh.
For more tips just like this, be sure to check out our Useful Photography Tips section.