What is Bokeh?
Bokeh comes from the Japanese term Boke, that literally translates to Blur in English. It is a popular photographic effect that can be achieved using a shallow depth of field, creating selective focus in your image. It is particular effective for creating creamy blurred areas, or isolating your subject from a busy or undesirable background. Perfect for portraiture. It can also transform light sources into spectacular orbs, or other interesting shapes if templates are used.
How to Create Bokeh
- Set your DSLR camera to Manual Mode or Aperture Priority
- Select a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) to create a shallow dept of field.
- The closer your point of interest is to the camera, the more the background behind will blur.
- Position your point of interest in the foreground and focus sharply on it.
- Try using LEDs, Christmas lights, street lights or natural light through leaves in your background.
- If you don't have many lights, try playing with reflections in mirrors, water or windows to duplicate them.
- Use my Free Shaped Bokeh Template to create some awesome effects!
Taken at a small aperture (large f-stop number), resulting in a wider depth of field. The background is quite clear and messy. It would be much more desirable blurred out! So let's adjust the aperture and see what happens...
Taken at a large aperture (low f-stop number - f2), resulting in a shallow depth of field. This creates attractive areas of blur (or Bokeh) particularly effective on the lights in the background.
Taken at f-stop 2, using the star shaped bokeh filter from my free template.
Taken at f-stop 2, using the drop shaped bokeh filter from my free template.
How to Make Bokeh Shapes!
You can change the shape of the areas of light in your bokeh by using shaped filters! These are available to buy, but you can make your own from thin cardboard or black construction paper. The diameter of the filter will need to fit just inside your camera lens, and then your UV filter can be screwed over the top to keep it safely in place. Alternative you can fix the shaped filter to the outside of your lens using tabs and secure it in place with a rubber band (but I prefer the previous method).
There is a bit of trial en error involve in the sizing of the cut out, as it will vary from camera to camera depending on the lens. Cut out your shapes in the centre of the circle, using a sharp craft knife or scissors. If you have around around a 50mm lens, you can use my Free Bokeh Shapes Template. If have made and tested each and every one of these with my Fuji x100s and they all work great!
Some Examples of Bokeh
Bokeh is a beautiful photographic characteristic. Here some examples of some shots I have taken using the Bokeh effect. The festive season is a perfect time to experiment with all the Christmas lights, or capture the beauty of lighting at a wedding. Manipulate and shapes of light between leaves or even try moving the camera during the exposure like my traffic light shot (taken while driving, please take yours from the passengers side!). Have you taken some amazing Bokeh shots? Share them in the comments section below.
Have fun trying out some of my shaped filters! Happy shooting.
Rachel continues to actively and passionately participate in a range of exhibitions, prizes, collaborations and community projects. She resides in her hometown of Geraldton, Western Australia with her partner, two dogs, two cats and carnivorous plant collection.