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How To Achieve Nice Bokeh [In Plain English]

Want to take portraits that have nice bokeh?  First, what is it?

BOKEH = noun.  a Japanese term for the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photographic image.

Below is a photo I took just the other day.  It is an example of an image with nice bokeh and how to use it effectively.

Annie Tao Photography bokeh example.

By blurring out the background, the entire image looks visually pleasing. You can’t even see she is standing on a sidewalk next to a parking lot!

HOW TO ACHIEVE NICE BOKEH (in plain English!)

1.  Use the right lens.

All lenses can create some kind of bokeh, but the REALLY nice, drool-worthy bokeh is from prime lenses with large apertures, like f/1.4 and f/1.8.

2.  Select a large aperture.

The larger the aperture (the smaller the aperture number) = a narrower depth of field and more bokeh!  Usually f/2.8, 1.8 and 1.4 create the best results.

3.  Get close to your subject.

4.  Focus on what you want to have sharp.

I know, I know…. duh.  But there may be someone out there who isn’t sure!

5.  Put your subject far from the background you want blurred out.

In the image above, there is beautiful green bokeh because there were bushes on the far side of the parking lot.  I took the shot from a lower angle (shooting upwards) to intentionally miss the cars in the parking lot, which were directly behind her.

The result is a deliciously smooth wash of color in the background, which made it look more like the little girl was standing in a meadow than a parking lot.


Bokeh photography example

Bokeh example - Annie Tao Photography.

Annie Tao Photography bokeh Example

Sometimes I create bokeh in the FOREGROUND because it tells a different story…

Bokeh in foreground example

And sometimes I don’t want any bokeh at all. I want to see all the details, like the textures of these walls, so I place my subjects close to the background and have my camera set at a smaller aperture.

Photo without Bokeh

No Bokeh in Photo

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Annie Tao
Annie Tao

is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography for more tips or inspiration. Stay connected with her on her Facebook page

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