Edited by Nataly Bogorad
January 15, 2020
Bokeh Effect: What Is It?
Whether you are a novice or professional photographer, you have undoubtedly thought of new, fun ways to capture and edit images. Photography is an ever evolving medium and the rise of photo sharing apps like Instagram is changing the way that we edit our photos.
That said, one of the more popular effects in photography today is the Bokeh effect. Bokeh images are all over social media and the internet today, but you may not be certain about what Bokeh is and how you can best leverage it in your own images. In fact, upon seeing the title for this article, you may have stopped and asked yourself “What is the Bokeh effect?”
There’s no need to worry. We are here to help.
Below is a guide on Bokeh effect photography and how to get the Bokeh effect in your own photos. While this will undoubtedly require some trial and error on your part, understanding the basics will help you avoid any simple traps and will help you more quickly master the effect.
You can also check out our video guide:
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Bokeh Effect Photography: The Basics
So let’s start with some basics. Bokeh is defined as “the aesthetic quality of the blur produced by out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.” To put it more simply, the Bokeh effect is the pleasing or aesthetic quality that occurs through a photograph containing an out-of-focus blur. Technically, the word “Bokeh” is a Japanese word meaning “blur.”
You often see the Bokeh effect in certain types of images. For example, close-up portraits tend to use the Bokeh effect. There, you can see the subject of the portrait in focus while the background is purposely photographed out-of-focus. Besides portraits, some of the most popular uses of the Bokeh effect are close-up and macro images of things in nature (most notably flowers). Highly reflective objects (like holiday lights or traffic lights) are also a popular item to photograph using the Bokeh effect. This is because they can appear as orbs of glowing light, giving off a smooth, cool look for your viewers.
One of the best ways to achieve the Bokeh effect is through the lens you use with your camera. The lens determines both the size and shape of the visible Bokeh in your image. To obtain the effect, you need to use a fast lens at the widest aperture (like f/2.8 or wider). Ideally, you will use an aperture of f/2, f/1.8, or f/1.4, but you ultimately have to work with the equipment that you have. It isn’t the end of the world is you don’t have a fast lens. In fact, you can compensate for slower lens speeds by increasing the distance between your subject and the background.
Speaking of background, you can obtain a better Bokeh effect by deliberately selecting your background. You want to avoid plain or transparent backgrounds simply because there isn’t much going on. Instead, if possible, try to find lights from buildings or street lights. Light reflecting on bodies of water (like ponds or rivers) can also work. So while you do want to place lots of attention on the central subject in your image, don’t ignore the background. It may create more issues in the future.
These are some general first principles that you can leverage to organically create the Bokeh effect. As with any skill that you pick up in photography, you will want to take different types of photos to experiment with this technique. After some time, you will start to see some significant improvement.
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Bokeh Effect Photography: Photo Editing Tips
All of the above is assuming that you are creating the Bokeh effect as you are shooting the image itself. That said, this isn’t the only way that you can obtain the Bokeh effect. You can generate it through software.
There are a variety of apps and software in the marketplace that allows you to use the Bokeh effect in your photos. Typically, what you will need to do is upload your photo to the app or software. From there, you will be able to select from a variety of effects or filters, one of which may be a filter that lets you apply the Bokeh effect. Depending on the software, you will likely be able to highlight the parts of your image that you would like to focus on. You will undoubtedly want to read the tutorial and calibrate the settings of whichever software you decide to use, as it will further describe how to get the Bokeh effect.
But having said all of this, you will want to tread carefully when adding the Bokeh effect to some of your photos. As we mentioned above, some images are more suited for the Bokeh effect than others. Don’t try to force it into images where you have a blank background, for instance. Be patient and only use it where you think it will be most effective. By using the Bokeh effect where it is most appropriate, you can be sure that you will be creating spectacular, moving images.
Get Started Today
The Bokeh effect can be a terrific addition to your photography toolkit. Whether you are focused on producing a collection of achieve images, shooting people in nature or urban environments, or a compilation of photos in a video, you may want to think about leveraging the Bokeh effect. In addition to this, the Bokeh effect is extremely popular on Instagram and other social media sites, so you will likely get some positive feedback by using it in your pictures. Whether you choose to use the Bokeh effect as you are taking your photos or choose to apply it digitally in the post-production process, the Bokeh effect can make your images pop.
On a related note, if you would like to add the Bokeh effect to your images in the post-production process, we encourage you to check out Movavi Photo Focus. Photo Focus is a Bokeh photo editor that allows you to easily create blur effects in any of your photos. The program is available for both Windows and Mac devices. In addition to letting users leverage the Bokeh effect in their images, Photo Focus allows users to take advantage of other features like edits of brightness, contrast, and other parameters, basic frame transformations (like cropping and rotating an image), and the ability to easily export your image in PNG, JPEG, and other popular formats. And the best news? You can download Photo Focus for free. To get started, please click here.