Bokeh: Photographic Effect Explained in 7 Steps (With Examples)

Today I am going to present you an interesting photographic technique called «bokeh», very simple to produce, and with which you will be able to capture incredible photographs, as good as the ones I show you below.

You like? Hmmm… I sure do. Well, don’t let yourself be impressed, getting something like this is extremely easy. In today’s article I will explain how you can get your first photos with Bokeh effect and I will share with you some other trick or cunning to achieve very creative effects.

What is the Bokeh effect in photography?

The bokeh effect is a photographic technique by which we focus well on the subject and leave the rest of the planes, both in front of and behind the subject, out of focus. We see this effect in typical portrait photography where the subject is in sharp focus and sharp, while the background remains blurred.

bokeh It’s a Japanese concept means blur.

What happens is that within this technique there is a tendency to call the bokeh effect more those photos in which lights appear within the out-of-focus area. So whenever you hear of bokeh, it’s most likely a photo with a main subject in focus and out-of-focus lights in the background.

Bokeh Portrait

Enough theory (although necessary). Let’s go to practice. Do you want to make your first bokeh? Follow the instructions that I will give you below.

How to take photos with Bokeh effect

Please follow the following recipe as closely as possible. The less you deviate from the original recipe, the easier it will be for you to achieve the effect in question.

Ingredients to achieve the Bokeh effect

  • Camera, preferably DSLR (I’ll tell you about my favorites here, in case you’re still looking for one).
  • Lens with a large aperture (I recommend the King of Lenses).
  • Tripod.
  • Christmas tree lights (or similar), which will serve as the background.
  • Stuffed animal, doll, cup of tea, your pet, your little brother, or even the grandmother, who will act as the main subject.
  • Sufficient physical space: It is convenient to do the exercise in a large living room or room, which will give you freedom to compose the photo to your liking.
  • Dimly lit environment.
  • You want to enjoy.
Child Portrait

Steps for making a good bokeh

  1. To start, put the objective in the camera. The trick is in the choice of target. The larger the aperture/diaphragm of the lens, the easier it will be for you to achieve the Bokeh effect. I use (and always recommend) a 50mm lens with an aperture of f/1.4. Basically the lower this f/ value is, the better.
  2. On your SLR camera select the semi-manual mode from the mode dial. Aperture Priority (On Nikons it’s “A” mode, on Canons and some other brands it’s “Av” mode.)
  3. Once in Aperture Priority mode, try changing the f/value to a number as small as possible as I was saying before. If you work with the King of Objectives you can get to f/1.4 without any problem.
  4. Place the camera on top of the tripod to have some stability. Depending on the light conditions you have, you may run the risk of getting a blurred or blurred photo, hence the need to carry out the exercise with a tripod. Well, the camera is set up. Now we have to set the scene.
  5. Place the lights In the background. You can put them the way you want, horizontally, vertically, hanging from a Christmas tree, on top of a sofa, or whatever is most practical for you.
  6. The subject. I’ve left it for last because if it’s your grandmother she can get fed up while you prepare the scene and leave. Even if you were going to use a doll or a stuffed animal, it is best to leave it for last because that is how you place it depending on where and how you have the background lights set. Here it is convenient to follow the rule of thirds (which says that the subject should never be centered, but rather on one of the two sides of the frame, either a little to the right, or to the left) so that the subject will be one side and the lights just on the opposite side. This way you make sure that the main subject does not cover them. You can also make creative games if you like, like the example of the lights that seem to come out of the cup.
  7. Now you go back to the camera, you focus on the subject and shoot. Clever.

Tricks with which you can improve your photos with Bokeh effect

  • Trick 1: If you don’t have a large aperture lens like the f/1.4 I’m telling you about, try to use whatever lens you have within your reach but with a long focal length, for example 200mm, 300mm or something like that. You will get a fairly similar effect, although not the same.
  • Trick 2: In bokeh, one of the things that most often attracts attention is the colors of the lights, but… do you dare to make a Bokeh in Black and White? Obviously you would shoot normally, in color, and later you would convert the photo to Black and White on the computer. Experiment it, it usually gives good and creative results.
  • Trick 3: The more distance there is between the subject and the background lights (depth distance) the blurrier the lights will be. So try to put the lights as far away from the subject as possible.
  • Trick 4: If you cut a cardboard in the shape of a heart (or any other shape that you like) and place it in front of the lens, you will make the lights acquire that same shape. Not the rest of the elements or subjects. Just the lights. Click here to see what I’m talking about.
Bokeh with Hearts

Why do we love Bokeh?

For all that it transmits. The Bokeh photos they seem to contain a concentrate of feelings and emotions. The combination of dim light that surrounds this type of scene with the blurred lights in the background give the photograph a powerful magical effect that leaves us all speechless. Definitely, if you are looking to transmit stories of tenderness or love, remember to introduce the bokeh technique in your photo, you will obtain a guaranteed result.

And that’s all. I hope you liked the article. Remember: I’m not interested in you reading it if you’re not going to practice it. For that I prefer not to write. Please practice it.

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