Everything You Need To Know About The Bokeh Effect In Photography

Everything You Need To Know About The Bokeh Effect In Photography

Bokeh Effect In Photography Is Said To Blur The Background To Emphasize The Subject More; But How And With What Settings Can This Effect Be Recorded? 

Photographers love capturing images with soft, out-of-focus backgrounds and sharp subjects. This effect can draw the audience’s attention to the essential elements in the composition. How to achieve this beautiful effect sometimes seems like a mystery. This article will discuss how to create a blurred or bokeh background effect.

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is a photography term derived from the Japanese language. In Japanese, the word “bokeh” means “blur.” this effect is called blur and is out of focus and occurs outside the depth of field. Bokeh effect recording depends on a different camera and lens criteria.

Distance criteria influence bokeh images. To achieve this effect, you need to position the composition elements in a way that suits the camera and the background.

Bokeh technique is easier to learn with some cameras and lenses. You can even download smartphone bokeh apps that allow you to create this effect. Since the lens and sensor of smartphones are often small, the ability of these phones to create a natural bokeh effect is negligible.

Bokeh technique

The bokeh technique is more straightforward with some cameras and lenses

How is bokeh created?

A common misconception is that you need a bokeh lens to create a bokeh effect. Lenses with specific features make it easier to create images with blurred backgrounds. However, you don’t necessarily need such lenses to achieve this effect. Various criteria affect the capture of a beautiful bokeh photo. The lens you choose is one of those criteria.

The sensor’s physical dimensions (not the number of megapixels) have a significant effect on bokeh. The larger the sensor size, the easier it is to capture beautiful photos with the bokeh effect; For this reason, it is more challenging to capture bokeh images with compact cameras and smartphones; Because these cameras have small sensors. You can easily capture images with a blurred background using full-frame or larger format cameras.

Bokeh is greatly influenced by the relationship between the elements in the composition and the background. The closer you are to the main subject and further away from experience, the softer the bokeh. This effect also depends on the focal length of the lens. A telephoto lens helps create a smooth bokeh background. Blurred backgrounds are more challenging to develop with wide lenses.

Most importantly, you should use the widest aperture setting on your lens.

Many camera kit lenses do not have such a feature; Because the widest aperture they offer is f/4. When you use a lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 or f/1.4, the bokeh effect is more likely to be achieved.

As a result, the way to create the softest possible background is to use a long lens with a wide aperture, So try to place your subject far from the ground and focus as close to it as you can. The larger the camera sensor, the softer the bokeh effect will be.

Wide aperture

Use a long lens with a wide aperture to create attractive bokeh

The best lens to create a bokeh effect

Lenses with a fixed focal length are the best option for creating bokeh. For example, lenses that cannot zoom and are known as prime lenses are more suitable for creating soft bokeh. This advantage is due to their maximum wide aperture compared to zoom lenses. These lenses are fast; Because the wide gap allows the use of high shutter speeds.

The most common and affordable bokeh lens is the 50mm lens. Most manufacturers make these lenses with their widest apertures of f/1.4 and f/1.8. Some companies make 50mm lenses with even wider apertures like f/0.95. Even Zeiss once produced a 40mm f/0.33 lens. However, this lens was not designed for actual use and was never mass-produced. This lens was just a fun combination for engineers and designers.

It is easier and cheaper to produce standard lenses such as 50mm wide aperture lenses. You can buy a 24mm lens with an aperture of f/1.4 or a 200mm lens with an aperture of f/2 at reasonable prices compared to other lenses.

One recommended option for creating the bokeh effect is a 35 mm lens with an aperture of f/1.4. This lens is a good option for portrait photography; Because you can get close to your subjects and capture intimate images of them.

Bokeh portrait

How to make an attractive bokeh?

As we mentioned earlier, various criteria play a role in creating attractive bokeh images. The more you follow these criteria in your frame, the softer the bokeh effect will be. We mention some requirements necessary to develop the most blurred backgrounds in the following.

Proper lighting

Using wide aperture settings means you have to balance shutter speed and ISO. If you have too much light in the scene, achieving this goal is impossible. When using an aperture of f/1.4 on a sunny day, your camera cannot reach a high shutter speed to gain good exposure even with the lowest ISO setting.

In such a situation, you have to wait until after sunset to reach the right lighting conditions. You can freely experience bokeh at night or indoors; Because there is less light than the outer spaces and the sun. You can achieve an attractive bokeh even at f/2 and f/2.8 aperture settings.

The distance between the camera and the subject

How close you are to your subject directly affects the appearance of bokeh in your images. The closer you get to the issue, the more blurred the background becomes. You can see this effect, especially in macro photography. Close focus on the subject means shallow depth of field. As a result, the background will be soft.

So try to get closer to the subject and capture similar images. Then go back and retake pictures to find the desired spot. Maybe you need to change lenses or zoom in to get a good effect inside the frame. By taking these steps, you can see an attractive bokeh effect in the background.

Bird photo and bokeh

The distance between the background and the subject creates a soft bokeh effect.

Choosing the right lens

With wide lenses, you get more depth of field than with long lenses. Knowing this feature will help you create bokeh images. If you don’t have a fast lens, try using a long lens. Approaching the subject with the most extended focal length is an excellent way to blur the background.

You can achieve pleasing bokeh by getting close to the subject and using a wide aperture. Standard kit lenses typically have a focal length of 18-55mm. The maximum aperture of these lenses is f/4 to f/5.6. With these lenses, achieving an attractive bokeh effect isn’t easy. Do not obsess to accomplish the perfect blur effect. You aim to achieve a blurred background to help the subject stand out. You have to make sure that the issue is clear enough.

Choosing the right background for the bokeh effect

The photographer’s distance from the main subject is the critical point of the desired bokeh background. The further the experience is from the issue, the sharper it will be. This process is suitable for all lenses, But the amount of blur and bokeh quality varies from lens to lens. Adding more detail to the background gives the photo a textured look. Pieces will look more prominent if they include bright highlights. Shooting at night and placing the lights in the environment can create an attractive bokeh.

Bokeh background

Choosing the right background for a bokeh effect can be difficult

Choosing the main subject

Choosing the right lens and aperture also helps to highlight the subject. A good matter is separated from the background with sharp edges. If your subject has a lot of depth and you use a vast aperture on a telephoto lens, the edges of the issue may not be in focus. In such a situation, the edges of the blur merge with the background. Maybe this is your desired result, maybe not, But you need to know how to control it.

It is your choice that affects the creation of images. It is where you should consider incorporating the bokeh technique and your preferred photo style. Sometimes focusing on the dullest background reduces the impact of the photo. In such a situation, you must consciously choose and control the bokeh production variables.

The more familiar you are with your lens and camera, the easier it will be to achieve the desired result. Understanding the ratio of the distance between the camera and the subject also affects your choices.

The same applies to the ratio of the distance between the subject and the background.

The amount of space the subject occupies in the frame affects the bokeh effect. Maybe this process seems a bit complicated, but you need to practice understanding how the variables fit together. In this way, you can achieve the desired bokeh.

If you want to blur a moving subject’s experience, you must focus carefully. If the subject occupies more of the frame, the background will not be so transparent, and the bokeh will become a less critical element of the image. In such conditions, achieving a shallow depth of field isn’t easy.

Shallow depth of field

To achieve a shallow depth of field and put a moving subject in focus, you need to shoot at a higher ISO or shutter speed.

Camera settings for bokeh

Controlling the camera settings is one of the essential parts of achieving the bokeh effect. You may get poor results if your camera is on program mode or shutter priority. As a result, you should first set the aperture and then the exposure.

Camera mode: manual vs. aperture priority

Aperture Priority or Manual modes allows you to control and achieve the desired bokeh. You can have complete control over the aperture settings in each of these modes. Choosing the aperture priority mode means you can set the f-stop or f-number of the camera and ISO to the desired value. In this situation, the camera automatically selects the shutter speed and adjusts the exposure.

You can also choose the manual mode for more control. This mode provides more control over field depth and bokeh’s appearance. In this mode, you can adjust the aperture to achieve the desired f-number and then change the ISO and shutter speed to balance the exposure.

If the composition of your images is such that a large part of the image is the background, you should take care of the proper exposure of the subject. Bokeh images are compelling when the issue in the picture is relatively small, leaving plenty of room for the background. In this case, the risk of correct exposure to the background increases.

When you use aperture priority mode, the subject may be underexposed. It is especially the case when you use average or center-weighted metering. As a result, you should be aware of the primary exposure method and be able to control it. If your only goal is to achieve attractive bokeh, you may underexpose.

It is exacerbated when you shoot in high-contrast lighting conditions.

You must read the light from the issue when the background light is brighter or darker than the subject. You can use Manual or Exposure Compensation (EV) settings to ensure proper exposure to your topic.

You can use these settings with spot metering. This way, you will get the subject’s most accurate reading of light reflection. You can avoid calculating the light in the background by using spot metering settings.

For photography, it is better to use Manual mode and switch between Averaged and Spot exposure settings to achieve the desired settings. This way, you can get an accurate reading of your subject and see the difference between the light of the issue and the background.

Also, in this situation, it is preferable to use Manual mode for Aperture Priority and exposure compensation (EV); Because you can apply the most precise camera settings.

Bokeh manual mode

With Manual mode, you will have more control over the bokeh

Best aperture settings for bokeh

There is no absolute right or wrong setting for creating a bokeh effect. Choosing the best aperture setting depends on your taste and is different for different images. We should make Aperture settings based on other variables, But in general, the aperture should be broad.

You should also pay attention to the exposure settings. If you try to use the widest aperture without considering these things, you may end up with overexposure or underexposure.

Best shutter speed to create a bokeh effect

After setting the aperture, it’s time to put the shutter speed. After selecting the f-number, you need to check the shutter speed. Often the shutter speed should be very high; Because the aperture is wide. You can set the shutter speed manually in manual mode or automatically in Aperture Priority mode.

At night and generally in low light conditions, you should be careful not to set the shutter speed too low. On the other hand, in such cases, it is better to use a tripod to prevent camera shake.

The relationship between shutter speed and aperture

The shutter speed is highly dependent on the aperture.

The best distance to create bokeh

To achieve maximum background blur, ensure the subject is as far away from the background as possible. Then get as close to the matter as possible and focus on it.

The focus point for the best bokeh effect

When using a vast aperture, you need to ensure you have enough field depth. You also need to focus enough on the main subject and ensure that the sharpness is not lost. If the issue has eyes, focus on the eyes. Of course, this rule can have exceptions.

In close-up compositions, using a low f-number will cause both eyes not to be in the direction. However, when using a wide aperture, focusing on the eyes means that the tip of the nose is not precise. Also, the ears are out of focus.

It would be best if you also considered the subject as the main objective of photography. If you focus too much on the bokeh technique, the issue may not be in the desired spot.

People usually enjoy photographing flowers with bokeh effects in the background, But often enough, part of the flower is not in focus. In such a situation, the photographer will probably focus on the center of the flower; Because of this, most of the outer petals are out of focus or fade into the background.

Ensure adequate depth of field and sharp edges of the subject. Although the edges don’t necessarily have to be intense, the matter should be distinguishable from the background. When the photographer focuses only on creating the bokeh effect, any subject can suffer from this problem and be out of focus; So, so remember to prioritize the issue.

To get the proper depth of field:

  • Close the aperture to one or two f-stops or more
  • Use different lenses
  • Place the subject at a point away from the background

Beautiful bokeh

Mastering the bokeh effect

Practice is the key to mastering the bokeh effect. Since there are many variables to control the depth of field, you must proceed by trial and error. Try to take time for your favorite camera and lens and take pictures of many objects. Spend time focusing on the different dimensions and methods of creating a bokeh effect.

Don’t think about capturing masterpiece images when taking pictures; Because you can record these images later by getting more familiar with the variables and their control.

Try working with different aperture options and check the images on your computer later. Then compare the appearance of the bokeh effects. Also, try taking pictures at different intervals. Move the subject further or closer to the background and work with different focal lengths.

The above criteria are pieces of the bokeh puzzle and should be practiced many times. Try a different method each time. Work with variables like you’ve never done before.

final word

Most of the time, you’re looking for the most bokeh effect so that any distracting elements in the background are blurred. When blurring the ground, you should consider the photograph’s subject and context. Sometimes the knowledge of the main issue is an integral part of the story.

Controlling the depth of field and keeping the subject in the area is always tricky. Always use the bokeh technique carefully. Don’t just think about the background; also keep its relationship with the main subject in mind. In such a situation, it is better to bring it in the photo so that the main issue does not leave the center of attention.

Choose the right point to place the subject. Do adding some background elements to the image make a strong composition, or does blurring it make the subject stand out better?

Only a high aperture does not affect the bokeh effect; Rather, it is better to consider other influential criteria. Practice this technique with your favorite subjects. After some practice, you can feel the changes.