How to Create a Spectacular Background Using an El Bokeh Wall

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Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur, in the out-of-focus areas of an image. You can easily get this spectacular background blur in your photos using a fast prime or macro lens (basically ones with an aperture of f/2.8 or greater), and a technique involving what Laya Gerlock called: the El Bokeh Wall (originally appeared on DIY Photography here).

Photo A  Uddhav Gupta  uddhav98 gmail com

In my opinion, the El Bokeh wall is very effective at creating eye-popping bokeh, which can help make your picture more interesting and unique in its own right. However, keeping in mind the potential it has, it doesn’t seem to be used often enough. It is very simple though, you can do it without any special equipment, using things you will probably be able to find lying around at home.

(NOTE: Several demonstrations of this technique use a speed-light. For those without such equipment, don’t worry, there IS a very good alternative which this tutorial will tell you about!)

THINGS YOU’LL NEED:

  • A camera
  • A macro or prime lens with a large aperture for nice bokeh (you can still try to do it even if you don’t have one of these, but your attempt may or may not be successful)
  • A tripod
  • Aluminium foil (You’ll probably have some in the kitchen. If not, it’s very cheap to buy)
  • A speedlight, or as in this tutorial, use an alternative light source instead. You can use a flashlight or download an app onto your smartphone which allows you to use its flash as a light)
  • A subject
  • A background (you can use a piece of cardboard)

STEPS FOR SETTING UP THE EL BOKEH WALL

You’ll be surprised at how simple it really is:

Step one: Get enough aluminium foil to sufficiently cover your background. NOTE: using a wide roll will give you the advantage of having more background area to work with when framing your shot.

Step two: Crumple the aluminium foil into a loose ball (as shown below).

Step 2

Step three: Open up the ball, without smoothing out the crinkles too much (these irregularities in the surface will reflect the light, which will create the bokeh) – be careful not to tear the foil in this step.

Step 3

Step four: Attach the foil to a piece of foam or cardboard to create the background (you may use some transparent tape or spray glue to do this).

Step 4

HOW TO CREAT A PICTURE WITH AMAZING BOKEH

Without the use of a speedlight!

  • Place your camera and tripod some distance away from the El Bokeh Wall. The desired part of the subject (or the whole subject) is typically included along with some of the bokeh from the foil.
  • Place the subject a suitable distance away from the El Bokeh Wall. You will need to judge what this suitable distance is on your own, as that will vary depending on your chosen subject, and the camera and lens combination you’re using. While constantly checking your camera’s LCD monitor (it’s just easier this way – remember to switch to Live View), place the subject in a the position that makes the bokeh pops the most.
  • Get your camera to focus on the subject (with the background properly out of focus to obtain good bokeh) and then switch to manual focus.
  • Experiment with your lighting (since you’re not using any fixed lighting). Hold up your flashlight or smartphone and experiment with various angles until you get the best result.
  • Set the two second self-timer on your camera to count down.
  • Keep holding the light source at the angle which yield the best results until the picture is taken.

THAT’S IT!

You should now have a great picture with marvellous bokeh like this:

Photo B  Uddhav Gupta  uddhav98 gmail com

Photo C  Uddhav Gupta  uddhav98 gmail com

Give it a try and please leave your comments below.

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Uddhav Gupta is a photography junkie with a passion for learning new techniques and sharing what he learns with fellow photographers. You may check out some of his work on his new Facebook page or his Flickr.

  • Philly Shooter

    Amazing Tip

    Thanks!

    I use a foil looking emergency camping blanket for a more dramatic
    background on a few shots and was not able to utilize it well until now!

  • Tim Lowe

    Slick. Good that you used the correct definition of the word. It’s so misused.

  • Bob Dumon

    Nice tip, thanks!

  • Ajay Panigrahi

    I’m trying this tip , coming weekend. great tip man.. no more waiting for led lights

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  • Uddhav Gupta

    Thanks!

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Hahahah, thanks man. Although it’s a different kind of fun using fairy lights or LEDs

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Glad you liked it! Thanks for reading!

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Hahaha I couldn’t agree more

  • Chantal De Vos

    Dank je wel een prachtige tip

  • Uddhav Gupta

    graag gedaan!

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  • Dattatreya Ramachandra

    I have tried this at Home. Below is one of the pic.

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Fantastic!

  • Totally different and cool idea. Think I may have to try making some of my photos like this.

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Thank you! Definitely! You could also post some of your results here if you’d like.

  • Evelyn Dean

    Oh what fun! Thanks

  • James Kern

    Tried it out with some aluminum foil, a flashlight and a 105mm macro lens..

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Those are some brilliant images!

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Glad you liked it!

  • Nice tip, Uddhav. Never thought of using the foil to create the bokeh. Loved the concept. Eager to try my hand using the technique that you showed.

    Thanks a ton. 🙂
    Anshul Sukhwal
    http://www.clickstoremember.com

  • Uddhav Gupta

    Thanks Anshul! You got some great pictures on your website!

  • Glad you liked my work, Uddhav. Thanks a ton for your time and feedback. 🙂

  • The result looks great. Definitely going to try this at the weekend.

    Ronnie
    http://www.ronniedayphotography.com

  • Anil Ramesh

    Thank You For This Tip!

    Shall Try This Soon!

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  • Great idea, thanks! 🙂

  • Cam Miller

    This is very creative – good idea!

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