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The word “bokeh” refers to blur or haze and in the photography world, we hear the term all the time. But what is it?
The word “bokeh” is Japanese in origin — and refers to blur or haze. In the photography world, it has become a term we hear often.
For those of us who are unfamiliar with this technique, the Skylum team is here to break it down and inspire your creative visions of bokeh ahead.
Bokeh refers to the “blurry” part of the image created by the camera lens. Different from simple background blur, when photographers speak about bokeh — they mean the quality of the portion of the photo that is not in sharp focus and the feeling that it captures. So, to put it simply, bokeh refers to the aesthetic nature of blur in any given photograph.
Think of the blur of grass behind a child’s face in a portrait, the hazy glimmer of circular twinkle lights in a city shot — these are the parts of your image that refer to “bokeh” and that, in combination with your subject, brings your photos to life.
Control the depth-of-field by adjusting your aperture to achieve the blurred photo effect you want. Depending on what lens and the light sources that you are using, you sometimes may need to bring your subject as close to the lens as you can to blur the background.
For portrait shots, try keeping your subject separated from the background. The further they are away from the background, the more likely they are to pop out of the blur.
You can purchase creative bokeh kits online that will provide shapes like hearts and stars and allow for fun experimentation. The Bokeh Masters Kit, for example, works with almost any wide aperture lens with a filter size and will create crazy special effects (like butterflies and paw prints).This is also an excellent gift idea for your photographer friends!
If you use Adobe Photoshop as a photo editing software, download a Full Collection of Bokeh Photoshop Overlays that you can use to add bokeh while editing photos or make your own bokeh lights brighter and more visible.
Explore how objects interact with your bokeh — hold up a vase of flowers and let the light gather at their petals or capture a slice of cake with candles lit in the background at a birthday celebration. There are lots of ways to explore bokeh in your everyday life through seemingly ordinary objects.
Like all other aspects of photography, bokeh is just one part of your image. Choose an intriguing subject. Focus on creative composition. Remember the technical parts that make your photo shine. And think of how to integrate bokeh into the midst of them all.
So, from what it means, to what it is, to how to use it — we hope this little article has opened your eyes to the world of bokeh that lies ahead. And although the opinions of what “good” bokeh is vary from photographer to photographer — the most important thing is to get out there and snap those images.
At Skylum, we know you’ll create something extraordinary. Enjoy!
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