You’ve heard of that dreamy, blurry background of an image called bokeh. Now, learn the secrets and how to add it to your photos in camera and in Photoshop. In this complete bokeh guide, we’ll show you examples of bokeh in photography, teach you how to achieve it in Photoshop in our video tutorial, and go over all your questions.
Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’ve almost certainly happened upon bokeh. The term describes a particular type of blur that appears when you’ve set your camera to a shallow depth of field, softening your background and juxtaposing it with a sharp, clear subject. If you’ve seen the effect on an iPhone, it’s commonly called Portrait mode. It’s an effect easily identified by the little circles (or other shapes) of light appearing to dance lightly across the photo. No two bokehs are the same, even when they’re shot at the same location on the same day. It’s a technique that you can master without ever attaining complete control over it. It comes in a variety of colors, sizes and intensities.
These days bokeh is a highly sought-after look, one of those “perfectly imperfect” touches that can make a photo seem at the same time effortless and intentional, and it’s surprisingly easy to achieve. You simply go for a wide aperture that will give you a nice, shallow depth of field, and let all that light play around in the out-of-focus portions of your shot. Play is the key word here. There’s no one “right” way to use bokeh, which is what photographers love about it. It’s a fun way to unleash some creativity, and it’s a safe technique to experiment with since it’s really hard to do it “wrong.”
Learning how to take a bokeh photograph is easy enough; you don’t even necessarily need a DSLR to try it out. Many point-and-shoot cameras (and even some smartphone cameras) give you the option to adjust aperture settings. There’s also an army of smartphone apps that offer bokeh effects, and of course the big players like Photoshop have ways to mimic a true bokeh if you miss it in the moment. Once you feel comfortable getting the boken into your image, it’s time for the really fun part: working it into your composition.
Before we dive into the details of our bokeh tutorial, let’s quickly go over all the basic FAQs:
What is bokeh in photography?
Bokeh is the blurry, out of focus background in a photo. The blurred technique is captured when shooting on prime lenses with a wide-open aperture, or zoom lenses with a 2.8 aperture or wider.
Why is it called bokeh?
Bokeh the photography term originates from the Japanese word bokeh, which means ‘blur’ in English.
How do you get bokeh background?
Shoot in as wide aperture as possible, use a longer focal lens length and make sure there is distance between your subject and the background.
How do you pronounce bokeh photography?
Bokeh is pronounced boke-uh.
What is video bokeh?
Video bokeh is similar to, and achieved in the same way, as bokeh in photography. By shooting with a wide aperture and having distance between your subject and the background, you’ll achieve an aesthetic and blurry background with the foreground in perfect focus.
How do you get the bokeh effect on the iPhone?
Starting with the iPhone 7 Plus, all new iPhone models have included Portrait mode, which mimics the bokeh effect of shooting with a wide lens on a DSLR. Creating this beautiful photography trick is simple with today’s smartphones.
Can I get bokeh photography on my iPhone 7?
On the iPhone 7 Plus or newer, switch your camera to Portrait Mode and shoot an in-focus photo to achieve the bokeh effect. This gives you photos that are high quality, in focus with a blurred and aesthetic background.
Which camera lens has the best bokeh?
There is no clear winner, although generally the wider your lens, the more drastic – and beautiful – your bokeh effect. You should use a lens with at least an f/2.8 or wider to get a quality bokeh effect on your photos.
Can you get bokeh with a 18-55 kit lens?
To achieve an aesthetic bokeh with an 18-55 kit lens, shoot at the furthest focal distance, with the widest aperture, with as much distance between your subject and your background as possible.
Which camera lens blurs the background the best?
Seasoned and creative photographers can achieve beautiful bokeh with almost any lens. However, beginners should choose a lens with at least an f/2.8 aperture or wider.
What is the best camera setting to blur the background?
Generally speaking, setting your aperture to the smallest f-stop value you can will produce the most drastic bokeh, or blurred background.
OK. Now that we’ve got the basics, let’s explore bokeh’s role in photography composition.
How Can Bokeh Enhance a Composition?
Glad you asked! Bokeh is a flexible technique and it has a lot to offer. For example, it’s particularly helpful for eliminating harsh, distracting transitions in your backgrounds. But bokeh can share some of the limelight too, adding a funky vibe to a stiff portrait or giving viewers a hidden clue about what’s really going on in your image. Let’s take a look at some examples: