March 2012
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Bokeh, what is it, and how to improve it – Part 1

Tip 991 (What is Bokeh): If you are on some photography forums, or have posted a photo on Flickr, and have got some comments, you will have come across the word Bokeh. So what is the meaning of Bokeh with respect to photography ? Well, if you refer to Wikipedia (bokeh), it refers to Bokeh as being derived from a Japanese word ‘boke’, which means ‘blur’, or ‘haze’. In Photography, bokeh refers to an area of the image that is out of focus, something that a lot of photographers ignore. So, if you are taking a photo of a person with a shallow depth of field, the person comes in focus, and everything else is blurred. However, the blurred area also is part of the image, and contributes to the overall feel and quality of the image, and hence having a good bokeh is important.

Tip 992 (Good bokeh – what does it mean): It has been said that people should focus on the object in the image, rather than on the blurred out areas of the image. However, the blurred out region is part of the image (unless you crop it out), and if the blur is pleasing to the eye, it is called good bokeh; and if contrasting with the image or unpleasant in some way, then it seen as bad bokeh. So for example, if you shoot a beautiful flower and there is something blurred but big in the background, it can be distracting.

Tip 993 (Depth of field and bokeh): When you want to control the bokeh you see in your image, the depth of field is one of the prime weapons that you have. Since the bokeh related to blurriness and out of focus, the depth of field directly controls which objects in the image are sharp or which are blurred. Hence, if you push for a shorter depth of field, you will lead to more objects in the image being out of focus, and hence more sections of the image that contribute to bokeh. A depth of field that is much larger will lead to more objects being in focus.

Tip 994 (Aperture and Depth of field): Like the previous tip, aperture controls the depth of field. If you have a larger aperture, the depth of field is much shorter and more sections of the image are out of focus. So, if there is an object in the photo that you do not want as part of bokeh, then keep a smaller aperture. The other part of the calculation is that you should not automatically push for a larger aperture, which is something that a lot of people who unaware of the link between aperture and depth of field do.

Tip 995 (Focusing on the object tightly in the photo): If you want to avoid a greater section of bokeh in your images, one option is to make the object of the photo fit in more tightly within the frame of the photo, occupying a larger section. This can be achieved by using more zoom to get the object to occupy more of the frame, or physically moving closer to the object. However, this is something that should be used with some amount of caution, since the background can be pleasing (even if it is blurred), and forms a sort of frame to the object of the photo; removing it can make the photo look ugly.

DIY Photography Bokeh Masters Kit Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques Lensbaby: Bending your perspective

Videos on bokeh and photography from youtube:

The Bokeh Effect in Gimp & Announcement

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial: Bokeh Effect (HD)

Bokeh Photography Tutorial

Lens Bokeh/Flare fx

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