Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday's Photo Tip - What the Term Bokeh Means

Friday's Photo Tip - What is Bokeh

a dragonfly with a great bokeh background


Have you ever heard the term or wondered what it meant?

The "bokeh" in the above photo is very apparent, and since the lens is doing such a great job, it has made it almost non-apparent.

Now that I have totally confused you - check out the background behind the dragonfly.

What do you notice about it?

First, it is not distracting.

Second, it has an overall out of focus smoothness to it.

And lastly it enhances the subject.

When a lens is said to produce a nice "bokeh", it means that it has the ability to blend the light with the background and give it a blurred or out of focus quality that does not distract from the subject.

On to the next question - do all lenses do this?

My answer is yes, they do, but some do the blending part much better than others. And I bet you can guess what determines that. The more money you spend on your lens, the better quality of glass you get. And the better the bokeh - and everything else for that matter.

But even with the standard lens that comes with any camera, including the point and shoot varieties, you can produce a pleasing bokeh too.

The trick is to use a shallow depth of field so that just the subject is in focus. The rest of the image gets blurrier as the distance gets farther away from the subject.

And how does one use a shallow depth of field?

Without getting too much into a DOF discussion, you use a smaller number on your aperture or f-stop setting.

The smaller the number, the more shallow the DOF.

Practice changing the DOF with your digital camera, and look at your results as you go along.

Depending on the lighting conditions, it is pretty easy to get a good "bokeh" when it is most needed to blend away those annoying or distracting backgrounds.

If you click on the photo above it will take you to my website where you can click on it again to view a larger image. The bokeh is more apparent in the larger view.


  1. Never heard about this terminology, thanks for sharing Kathy. But I practice this feature all the time, I love making object to stand out. Excellent post, and I love your photo tip series, keep it up. Anna :)

  2. Thanks, Anna! It is a good practice to do - especially on macro images. Your photos always look great - bokeh included!

  3. I never knew the term for it, thanks.

  4. Cool, thanks for the info, and what a great shot Kathy!! I have been fooling around with depth of field when it comes to shooting the Moon through trees, use a high f stop and long exposures, works pretty good.

  5. Lovely photo, Kathy!

    I'm having a problem with noise in some shots, with my digital camera, but can't afford to spend on another camera!

    Finding the right DOF for a particular shot, is always a challenge, no matter what the camera.


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