Sound Shooters: 4 Ways to Create Bokeh (blur) Background

Saturday, August 22, 2015

By Hitomi Dames

One of our photographer friends loves deep focus. Everything in each one of his images must be in perfect focus.

But wouldn't you sometimes want to focus just on the subject and blur the background? You might even want to blur parts of the subject in a composition? It is difficult to have everything in focus and express it as art, isn't it?

So, what do you to blur the background or create bokeh? Bokeh comes from boke in Japanese, meaning blur.

1. Aperture

An f-stop of 2.8 or lower is great for bokeh. But just in case your lens doesn’t have 2.8 or lower f-stop, I selected f/4.5 for these tests below (fig.1,2,3).

FL 48mm, f/4.5  Starting position for images
2. Focal Length

Remember, I wrote in “Telephoto Zoom Lens”: The longer the focal length, the larger the subject becomes, but the image covers less area. (narrow angle)

So here is the image of zoomed in 70 mm taken from the same place as fig 1. The books in back are more blurred than in fig. 1. ( f-stop is the same @ 4.5).

FL 70mm, f/4.5  Here I changed the focal length to 70mm.

If your lens doesn't zoom to 70 mm or more,  

3. Bring the subject toward you as I did in fig. 3 (or you get closer to the subject).

FL 48mm, f/4.5, I brought the subject (king) closer to me.
Actually, I moved the entire board towards me.

I set all of these shots with Manual Mode (M), but I could have set Aperture Priority (A or Av) since all three shots above are the same f-stop. A or Av keeps the f-stop constant.
Graphic from Wikimedia Commons
Althepal Derivative work: Mehdi (ModeDial.svg)

4. For this last image below (fig. 4), I got closer to the subject and used f/2.8 
to create the most bokeh, making the chess pieces and books in the background the most blurred.

FL 58mm, f/2.8  I got closer to the subject (king). I also opened the aperture to f/2.8.

Bokeh makes all the difference in portraiture. Here is sample of a portrait with bokeh.

FL 100 mm, f/2.8

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For other articles in this series, select Sound Shooters under Features on the webpage.


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