Bokeh Photography 101

28 April 2024

If you’ve ever seen a portrait where the subject pops against a smooth, beautiful blur, that's the magic of bokeh, pronounced "bo-keh". This effect adds dreaminess and elegance to your photos, drawing the viewer's gaze to the subject while softening the background into a mesmerising blur.

In this guide, Ted's Cameras will take you through bokeh photography. We'll talk about what bokeh is and how to achieve it, plus we’ll recommend the lenses you need to help you create stunning bokeh photos.

What is Bokeh Photography?

Bokeh, derived from “boke”, the Japanese word for "blur," refers to the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus areas in a photograph. It's that pleasing blur in the background of portraits, macro shots, and wildlife and sports photography. By effectively using bokeh, you can draw the viewer's eye directly to your subject, creating a sense of distinct separation and artistic flair.

Typically, bokeh manifests as small, rounded forms in the background of an image. However, various lenses yield distinct bokeh styles, ranging from more precise geometrical shapes to soft circles. Preferences for these styles vary among individuals, so after you’re feeling informed and equipped, find what works best for your photography.

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Choosing Your Bokeh Lens

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The key to capturing stunning bokeh lies in your lens selection. While mirrorless and DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses offer the most flexibility for bokeh photography, any camera can achieve some level of background blur by getting creative with positioning, but more on that later.

The best lenses for bokeh are those with a wide maximum aperture. Aperture is the opening of the lens that determines the amount of light entering the camera. A wide aperture, which is actually a low f-number, like f/1.4 or f/1.8, allows more light in, creating a shallower depth of field. This means a smaller portion of your image will be in focus while the rest softens into that beautiful bokeh effect.

Browse this collection of Bokeh-Friendly Lenses

​​Camera Settings for Bokeh

While a good lens is crucial, camera settings also play a significant role in achieving the perfect bokeh. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Aperture: As mentioned earlier, use the widest aperture your lens allows, which will be the lowest f-number, to maximise bokeh.
  • Shutter Speed: Since a wide aperture lets in more light, you might need to adjust your shutter speed to avoid overexposure. A faster shutter speed allows less light in, balancing the increased light from the wide aperture.
  • ISO: If adjusting the aperture and shutter speed doesn't completely eliminate overexposure, consider lowering your ISO. ISO controls the camera's sensitivity to light. A lower ISO setting results in cleaner images with less grainy noise, especially when shooting in bright conditions.
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Framing the Shot for Perfect Bokeh

Beyond lens and settings, how you position yourself and frame the shot can also significantly impact your bokeh results. Here are some tips for the best bokeh results:

  • Increase the distance between subject and background: The further the distance between your subject and the background, the more evident the bokeh effect will be.
  • Get closer to your subject: By physically moving closer to your subject and keeping them in focus, you’ll enhance the background blur.
  • Background choice matters: Busy backgrounds can create distracting bokeh. Look for clean backgrounds with distant elements like dappled sunlight or city lights that will blur into smooth bokeh circular blobs.

For more tips on how to capture the perfect Bokeh, check out Ted’s video on Bokeh tips.

Ready to Dive into Bokeh Photography?

Bokeh adds a touch of magic to your photos, making them stand out from the ordinary. With the right lens, camera settings, and creative positioning, you can master this technique and take your photography to new heights.

If you're still unsure about which lens might be the best fit for your bokeh adventures, seek more tips on our YouTube channel, and don't hesitate to visit your local Ted's Cameras store. Our knowledgeable staff is always happy to help you find the perfect gear to unleash your creativity. 

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