For the photographer types, you know what I’m talking about. For those getting into photography, or just curious of what I’m talking about here’s a little wikipedia excerpt:

Bokeh (derived from Japanese, a noun boke ??, meaning “blurred or fuzzy”) is a photographic term referring to the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens using a shallow depth of field.[1]


The beautiful thing about bokeh is that the focus is solely on your subject. In the hustle and bustle of getting “the photo,” a big problem photographers will find is that the background is just too distracting. What you’ll find with Bokeh is the picture looks more natural, clean, and particularly sharp. For example:

Sisterly love.
Canon 30D, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, 1/640, f/1.4, ISO 200
Lukeoverhere Photography ©

As you can see in this photo the focus is solely on my cousins. What would otherwise be a bustling city photo is now a photo focused on their facial emotions.

Bokeh is not just used for focus. It can also be used to created a relaxed, softened mood. If you did any shopping during the Christmas season, you may have noticed the H&M bags with the red out-of-focus lights of a circular-hexagonal nature. That is a perfect example of bokeh.

Canon 30D f/1.4 USM, 1/250, f/2, ISO 400
Lukeoverhere Photography

In this case the out of focus Christmas lights tend to add another dimension to the photo, giving off a softer, relaxed mood.

When needing focus on detail without being too distracting, the bokeh of your lens may be able to produce that shot without making your photo seem like one endless maze for your eyes.
korean graffiti
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, 1/30, f/1.4, ISO 50
Lukeoverhere Photography

The shallow depth-of-field coupled with experimenting of light sources (a la Strobist) gives many possibilities for utilizing bokeh. But keep in mind not all photos necessitate a wide aperture setting, particularly landscape shots and group photos.

With your newfound knowledge, go out and experiment! It’s hands down the best way to learn in my humble opinion.

*Edit: Note aperture numbers are reverse in size. The lower the number, the wider the aperture. As for point and shoots, there’s no real controls over aperture. However if you have a Canon Powershot, you maybe be able to use CHDK to unleash the power in your Powershot at the expense of battery life. More on that another time.

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