A Guide to Bokeh

The days are getting shorter, the nights colder and darker, and to top it off, it is somehow still 2020. It’s getting to the festive season meaning that all the pretty lights are coming out both in the house and on the streets. It is always a treat to see, and more fun to capture! This post, A Guide to Bokeh, is to inform and help with getting that all-aesthetic Bokeh effect. As well as adding a little more magical sparkle to your holiday pictures!

A Guide to Bokeh

Bokeh/Boke is “the quality of out-of-focus or “blurry” parts of the image rendered by a camera lens.” However, this is not any blur on a photo, it is a specific ” high-quality blur.” The word comes from the Japanese language, which literally translates as “blur.” The main purpose and use of this effect is to emphasize the subject together with certain points of light.

Bokeh is created by the camera lens, not the camera body. This means that different lenses render bokeh differently. In general, lenses with large maximum apertures (f/1.2-f/3.5) yield more ”good” bokeh than other zoom lenses. “Good Bokeh” adds to the image by having soft circular orbs. This can be as a
smooth background to a portrait or macro shot.

An example of this photography can be seen below:

image of hot chocolate with a bokeh background.
Example of Classic Bokeh formed from Christmas lights behind a Hot Chocolate

In the image above you can clearly tell the “high-quality blurring” of the Christmas lights to be the traditional type of Bokeh. But you do not necessarily need lights in the background to create the aesthetic, as seen in the next example:

peach blossom A Guide to Bokeh
Example of Bokeh without lights of peach blossom

In this example, the low aperture of the lens creates the soft orbs of Bokeh, making this image part of the Bokeh aesthetic. So, how do you go about doing it?

How To Create Bokeh

After you know the basics, you can have a go at this technique!

Here are my 5 key points for creating an image with Bokeh:

  • Focus on an object from a close distance (as close as the lens will allow, keeping the object in focus).
  • Use a wide aperture setting (f/3.5 and below).
  • Make sure the background isn’t too “busy”
  • A good background prop to create ”good bokeh” are fairy lights!
  • If you are not comfortable in the M setting, switch to A/AV (aperture priority)

A good lens to use is a portrait lens such as a 50mm or 85mm. These usually allow a lovely wide aperture to give that all-important soft background. However, you can use the manual camera lens setting to blur your subject if you do not have access to a low value aperture lens.

A Guide to Bokeh

What do you like most about this effect? Have you tried it out? Let me know what you think in the comments, or if you have any other tips and tricks you would to share!

As always thank you for reading and happy December!


Published by Briony-Molly

Photographer & Designer. Horse Owner, Book Fanatic

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