Bokeh Effects

Posted On: May 4, 2010
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Bokeh in photography refers to the blur or the quality of the blur in the out-of-focus area of the image. It is most prominent when under a dark setting and you have light sources in the background that are out-of-focused. Not all lenses produce the same quality for this effect, and you can easily find lots of discussions on forums regarding the topic. Most notably, the number of blades used by the manufacturers in the lens to form the circular aperture diaphragms produces the shape of the bokeh. The higher end lenses usually have a 9 or 11 blades that form the aperture diaphragm, such as my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro, which uses 9 blades. Of course, every manufacturer will have their own implementations, and there are many factors that contribute to the quality of bokeh produced.

Personally, I will only use “fast” lenses that have an aperture of at least f/2.8, although I will really love to own the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. Sadly, anything better than f/2.8 usually comes at a premium, and there really are not that many choices out in the market.

In order to produce the “blur” effect as shown in these pictures, it is best to set your lens to the widest aperture (smallest number like f/2.8). Using a long focal length or zoom lens will work well, and you will need to focus on something that is not along the same plane (in terms of distance between the camera and the objects). You will find that the focus point will be sharp, while the rest will form the bokeh effect. Sometimes, depending on the situation, I found myself switching to manual focus, as I may not have something in the foreground to focus on.

So that’s it! Very simple yet effective. The rest is up to your imagination and creativity. Happy bokeh-ing!!