How To Create Bokeh Easily In Camera
Bokeh is quite possibly one of the most heard terms in the photography world. A lot of beginners try adding this in post process by using a tool in Lightroom or Photoshop to blur the image. And it never looks the same. Because it won’t. The only way to truly achieve this and it look natural, is to do this technique in camera.
Below are a few tips on how to get that beautiful bokeh in camera.
What Is Bokeh?
Bokeh, which is pronounced (/ ˈ b oʊ k eɪ / BOH-kay; Japanese: ) is currently incredibly popular in the world of photography. To keep things very simple, it is the quality of the blurred out portion of a picture.
The word comes from the Japanese word “Boke,” which means (sort of) “blur” In photography.
Generally this will be with a main subject in focus in the foreground, with the background portion blurred out.
There is ‘Good Bokeh’ and ‘Bad Bokeh’ although it’s really important to understand that what is Good and what is Bad in Bokeh photography (and in fact all forms of art) is entirely subjective.
While ALL lenses will give a Bokeh effect when used, it is generally best to try the Bokeh effect with a 50mm lens.
Why? 50mm lenses are generally the cheapest, fastest lenses you can buy.
Because ‘nifty fifties’ are the most popular focal length available there are hundreds available quite cheaply on the second hand market.
What Is Good Bokeh?
While opinions may vary (They will!) what most people consider to be ‘Good Bokeh’ is when the background has what is referred to as a ‘creamy’ quality.
While we accept that is a bit vague, it’s generally about having a soft, smooth transition in the tonal areas of the blurred background.
If there are highlights, we want these too look more rounded, less hexagonal.
To sum this up, the background should be ‘pleasant’ and not distract the viewer from the main subject of the image.
However, that can be quite difficult when shooting for Bokeh you ARE concentrating on the background!
What Is Bad Bokeh?
So, quite simply ‘Bad Bokeh’ is the opposite of ‘Good Bokeh’ harsh, jagged lines in the background being visible, the background being blurred and contrast in the tonal range.
The background highlights may also display as hexagonal shapes rather than round.
How do I get started with Bokeh?
The quickest, easiest way is to start with a 50mm f1.8 lens, or ‘nifty fifty’ as they’re affectionately known.
They are the cheapest and easiest way to achieve the Bokeh effect and if you don’t have a 50mm in your arsenal, you really should!
As discussed, all manufacturers will produce their own version, there are third party manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron making their own versions and then there is Yongnuo and Kipon producing very cheap lenses too.
In addition there are lots of second hand 50mm lenses available. You can check out your local camera shop to see if they have refurbished gear, or you can shop online at stores like MPB.com.
How hard is Bokeh? Quite simply open your lens to its widest aperture, focus on something in the very foreground, whether that be a person or an object (objects are obviously a lot easier while you’re practising).
Now you’ve achieved the basics, you need to experiment, experiment, experiment… What looks better in the background? Should you try doing this at night with lights? (You should!) What happens if I stop down a little?
The more you practise, the more you’ll start to ‘see’ the Bokeh effect and what makes it good or bad…
A quick word of warning!
Before you rush out and buy!!! If you’re buying new, the cheaper the lens, the more likely you are to achieve ‘Bad Bokeh’
It is often worth spending more on a better quality second hand lens. These will often have more aperture blades, which will give you those rounded highlights and softer creamier look.
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