What is bokeh effect meaning

“Bokeh” is a Japanese word which means “blur”, “haze”, “unfocused”. Quite logically, bokeh photo effect results in artistic images with out-of-focus background and/or light orbs.

Bokeh effect background example

Such pictures look more romantic, soft, even mysterious; bokeh attracts the viewers’ attention to the main figure and takes the rest off the table.

While for most amateur photographers this effect is always more or less the same, there are professionals who insist that there is “good” and “bad” bokeh. The former is smooth and pleasant, light orbs are round and neatly shaped. The latter is harsh and octangular-shaped when zoomed in.

Octangular-shaped bokeh effect

How to get bokeh effect

The Bokeh effect in photography may be achieved in various ways. Some of them relate to technical matters, others are just about composition and object positioning.

  • Wide aperture

    The wider your aperture is, the better, as it creates a shallow depth of field. Keep in mind, it’s not your cam setting but one of the lens’ parameters, so you’ll have to use a lens with at least 2.8 F-stop or, preferably, even less. The shutter speed must be high.

    Don’t let your cam to focus on the background automatically, so set an “aperture priority” or manual mode.

  • Zoom lenses

    Large focal lengths or even a digital zoom also let you “grab” the central figure and blur the rest.

  • Proper positioning

    Make sure the distance between your model and the background is sufficient – it means, several meters at least. You may also approach the object you shoot as close as possible to keep it in focus.

    Proper positioning for proper bokeh effect

  • Proper lighting

    Backlit objects tend to acquire the bokeh effect, side light will also help, especially if the rays are dispersed. Golden Hour gives a natural bokeh effect without any additional settings.

    Golden hour for bokeh effect

  • Accessories

    Put a white lace cloth on the lens and check what you’ll get. You may also use string lights to decorate your model – this will create a unique foreground bokeh effect.

    Use accessories for bokeh effect

  • Post-shooting editing

    Use online tools to put your video against a blurred background or apply different filters to them. Even if you don’t achieve the same effect as with a wide aperture and a fast lens, you may well still find very interesting solutions.

And be never afraid of going creative!