Cee’s Tips and Tricks: Bokeh Defined

Tips and TricksThis week’s tips and tricks topic was suggested by WoolyAndraeski’s blog and I will introduce the idea of using more bokeh in your photography.  I will go into more detail in Part Two of this series.

Notice the soft (out of focus) background. Nikon 1 V2 - 18.5mm fixed lens with f2.2
Notice the soft (out of focus) background.
Nikon 1 V2 – 18.5mm fixed lens with f2.2

The term bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (暈け or ボケ), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji (ボケ味), the “blur quality”.  The term bokashi (暈かし) is related, meaning intentional blurring or gradation.  Bokeh is defined as the effect of a soft out-of-focus background or foreground that you get when shooting a subject. Simply put, bokeh is the pleasing or aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph.

The English spelling bokeh was popularized in 1997 in Photo Techniques magazine, when Mike Johnston, the editor at the time, commissioned three papers on the topic for the March/April 1997 issue; he altered the spelling to suggest the correct pronunciation to English speakers.  The term bokeh has appeared in photography books at least since 1998. It is usually pronounced /ˈbkə/ (boke-uh).

Usually with a lower f-stop (faster apetures) your bokeh is more obvious.

This week I’ll show you some good experiments, mistakes and just bad photos.  Next time, I’ll give you a few hints how to get the photo with the bokeh you want.

Here are a couple cool shots I took.  One with the focus on the wrong subject and the second with the correct bokeh.  This first set with the irises was definitely a mistake.

Irises in focus
Irises in focus
Irises out of focus
Irises out of focus

Although this set is the out of focus swing such a mistake.  Think about the the story you are telling.

Swing in focus
Swing in focus
Swing out of focus
Swing out of focus

Here is one little hint most cameras show in the view finder or screen the points of focus that your lens is focused on.  Those points will be the absolute sharpest points of your photo.  Notice what is around in your view finder and you can get a sense of where the most bokeh will appear on your photo.

One thing that can really get in the way of your photography is the lighting on your screen in back of your camera.  Since I can’t always bend down I will use my screen a lot to get flowers on their stems.  If the lighting is to bright you may not be able to see what your are photographing.  Here are a couple of photos I recovered from my trash bin.  As you can tell, the point of focus way not on these bearded irises.  I am showing you this because it is always wise to take more than one photo of anything.  In today’s age, memory is cheap for our cameras.  To get that perfect shot, you may just have to weed through a few duds.  These photos have obviously been untouched.

Point of focus was on the leaf near the ground.
Point of focus was on the leaf near the ground.
Point of focus on the ground not the flower.
Point of focus on the ground not the flower.

To wrap it up for this week here is a photo I took this week.  I used my Nikon 1 V2 (handheld) with my Nikkor Nikkor VR 30-100mm f/3.8-5.6 lens (equal to 81-297mm in 35mm format).  For the techies, here are the settings I used 30mm f5.6, 1/125., ISO 280.  Notice the only sharp part of the image is a petal or two in the center of the rose and slowly blurring out to the edges.

061314 bokeh (5)Happy shooting.

To view my other Tips and Tricks click here.

Qi (energy) hugs

Cee

10 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for all your helpful tips. Bokeh is a much nicer word than blurring which I use and at which I’m trying to get better.

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  2. Good tips! Also an object lesson is why you need to take more than one or two shots if you really want the pictures … and the built in hazard of autofocus, much as I love an depend on it. Also autofocus is normally designed to focus on the foreground and blur the background, under some conditions it will to the opposite … so you have to be wary … and take a lot of pictures 🙂 Thanks Cee!!

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  3. I adore bokeh, and would love to be able to do it —- but I use my iPhone or at best a point and shoot — and those don’t really offer the capacity for real bokeh. Nevertheless I may be able to use your tips even with that primitive equipment to get a little significant blurring and sharp focus contrast. Thanks!

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