Bokeh Tutorial

Have you heard people talk about this crazy word before? Bokeh?

How do you pronounce bokeh? Bow (like a ribbon) Ka (like ca-ca).

Bokeh is a photography term – when the area behind (or in front of) the main subject is blurred and makes a pleasing pattern. It doesn’t have to be a big area, really – but of course, it’s lovely when the photo has lots of bokeh.

Here are some examples of Bokeh from my Flickrstream:


1. Shoot photos on the manual setting. If you aren’t doing this, check out my post about it here.
2. Try to shoot photos on the lowest # f-stop your lens will allow. The best bokeh comes from f-stops 2.8, 1.8 and 1.4. (I’m sorry, your “kit” lens will probably not go down this low in f-stop.)
3. Shoot things that naturally give bokeh… like foliage, lights, crowds. Put your subject in front of a pattern, basically.
4. Give the subject space. Meaning, if you have your child stand right up against a bush, there is no room between them and the “pattern.” Meaning, no room for the camera to blur the background and give bokeh.
5. Or – blur on purpose. Switch your lens to manual focus and *do not* put the subject in focus, then CLICK. This works great with Christmas trees and other types of lights.

You may not be able to achieve bokeh. [Sad face.] However, look and see if you have a “manual mode” on your point and shoot, to try the tricks I mentioned above. Or, try your “portrait mode” (usually looks like the head of a lady). That mode is most likely to achieve bokeh, because it tries its hardest to put the subject in focus and blur the background.

Post links in the comments of your bokeh examples, new and old. And share any other great bokeh tips you may have!

This article has 17 comments

  1. Meghann

    I’ll admit it, I’m a bokeh junkie. The lenses most found on my camera are my 2.8 macro, or my 1.8 50mm. I just can’t help myself.

    I am also showing a lot of restraint, I was going to post 5 billion links to my photos, but I won’t. Lol!

  2. Anonymous

    wow. fantastic photos. can’t wait to try this! – m

  3. Meghann

    Kim-LOL! I was going to post at least twice that much, hee hee.

  4. Lisa Gutierrez

    I could post a loooot of bokeh photos, but I’ll just post this one I took recently of some flowers on my echeveria [succulent]. the leaves of the echeveria look really sweet all blurred up (technical terms abounds!!) behind the blooms.

  5. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    WOW! Loving your photos!!!

    Thanks for sharing! :)))

  6. Megan

    Love this! TFS.

  7. FireMom

    One of my fav bokeh shots (of my own) is this one from last summer. Bokeh + butterfly + sun flare? Hell yeah.

    Loved this post and shared it. Great stuff.

  8. Kim Hosey

    That’s a great collection. I love the foreground bokeh shots — I never think to do that.

    I really like using bokeh to highlight my son interacting with things, like here, here, and here. I even have a whole set dedicated to son bokeh.

    I like it in some other nature shots too — here and here, for instance. My husband has finally even stopped saying “Well, it would be better if the whole thing was in focus.”

  9. Kim Hosey

    What? I thought I WAS showing restraint! 🙂

    As to tips, all I do is try to keep in mind the background as well as the foreground subject. Pile of old beads in sunlight? Not junk. Bokeh opportunity!

  10. Bridget

    I love you for this post. Not just for the fabulous info that I can now pass along to my friends who ask me about how I “make stuff blurry on purpose”, but because you used the word ca-ca. You are obviously my people. 🙂

    And Meghann? Meeee, too.

  11. Eva

    Great post! I think bokeh can add so much magic to a photo. I keep my 50mm at f/1.4. And, I look for lots of detail and light in the background. Here’s a recent bokeh shot of mine.

    Hope your hand is doing better!!!

  12. Claire

    Nice bokeh shots!

    Another option for people without DSLRs is to try macro mode if they have it. Macro mode is for shooting things really close up. It will work best if there’s as much distance as possible between your subject and the background, like you said, but I still managed to get some here.

    From my film SLR days, I’ve also got this pure bokeh photograph (it was shot up through a canopy of trees a bit out of focus) and this sculpture with bokeh in the background.

    Please be advised these links go to my store. I’m not trying to hoodwink anyone, I just don’t have them online elsewhere. Cheers!

  13. chloebear

    inspiring everyone. I am going to go practice right now…!

  14. monstergirlee

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. monstergirlee

    Holy crap, how can I not know how to post a link in a comment. I’m not terribly bright.

    Here is my original comment, sorry ’bout deleting it, I know that’s annoying. As is my over use of the word “that’s”

    I love bokeh, thank you for making it clear that just being out of focus does not make bokeh, it has to have that “pleasing pattern” – I added a link to my bokeh set on – hope that’s OK.

    Yours are lovely!

    (and I need a new lens!!!)

  16. Kim Hosey

    Someone sent me this link recently (not new, but new to me) and I thought of this post. Thought I’d pass it on.

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