“Man, I want to learn to do these shots with blurred background soo bad.” Was this your only thought when you took your own DSLR for the first time ever? It sure was because bokeh, when captured in the right way, is really stunning and beautiful.
Bokeh means shallow depth of field on the photo or, explained in simple terms, an area with blurred background. Contrary to the widespread opinion, there are more than two things—lens aperture and distance—that play the key role in creating wonderfully smooth and atmospheric bokeh. Let’s talk about them.
Obviously, lens that is used to create bokeh is primordial because some lenses just work better than the others. If you want to achieve perfect bokeh, you’d better use prime lenses. For example, one of the best lenses to create killer bokeh in portraits are considered to be 50mm for a cropped sensor DSLR and 85mm for a full-frame camera. Both f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses work perfectly because the wider the aperture of the lens, the more prominent the bokeh will be.
Another great lens for creating bokeh, zoom this time, is a 24-70mm f/2.8, which is surprisingly fast, sharp, and colorful.
There are two things to consider when it comes to how to distance works in creating better bokeh.
Firsly, the distance between the subject and the background should be really large in order to achieve shallow depth of field. And we don’t mean several meters. More like several dozens or hundreds of meters. Secondly, the larger the distance between you and the subject, the more prominent the bokeh would be.
So remember, the larger the distance, the smoother your bokeh will look, throwing the background completely out-of-focus and channeling all attention to the subject, making it look 3D.
The place where you make a portrait shot is crucial to achieving beautifully looking bokeh. The background should be neither too dull nor too bright. That should be done so that it doesn’t rob the attention that would otherwise go to the subject or making the subject kind of drown into a bland background. The bokeh should complement the picture. You can google colors that complement one another and use it in combining the colors of the background and your subject.
Simple patterns and city streets are really good for creating mind-blowing bokeh, whilst shooting someone against a green monotonous background like grass should be avoided.
Aperture is very important in creating a quality bokey photo. It’s usually said that the larger your lens maximum aperture, the better your bokeh will be.
And that’s true. But actually, small aperture influences bokeh too. Remember we published the post about aperture blades? Well, the more you stop down the aperture, the more angular your bokeh will look, depending on the amount of aperture blades and their type. They can be either circular-shaped or direct, the former being the best option.
Lighting is the last, but not the least, thing that is crucial both to creating beautiful bokeh and making quality candid photos. Remember that the best photos are those that were shot either during the golden hours or using disseminated light. In case of the latter, forests and cloudy weather help a lot.
If you think about it, it’s not really difficult. The only thing that you should do to be able to shoot portraits with gob-smacking bokeh is simply combine these five techniques and go for it! Share your best bokeh photos in comments and tell us what settings you used!
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