Bokeh Photography: What is it?

Have you ever spotted those beautiful little blurry orbs of light in the background of photos? That’s one example of bokeh photography. If you’ve always wanted to give it a try then this is the best guide for beginners.

What Will I Learn in This Guide?

  • What is Bokeh Photography?
  • What Camera Settings do I Need for Bokeh?
  • Adjusting the Effect
  • Foreground Bokeh

What is Bokeh Photography?

Bokeh quite simply translates from Japanese as ‘the quality of blur’. With that in mind, those beautiful little orbs of blurry light we talked about before, is just one way of representing bokeh in your photograph.

Using this sumptuous technique helps to isolate a subject amidst a busy scene. But it is also a great way to disguise distracting and messy backgrounds too.

Portraits, still life and macro photography benefit from bokeh as they are all about focusing upon a singular subject. Landscapes aren’t as suitable.

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Camera Settings for Bokeh Photography

You can capture bokeh using most cameras – all you need is a shallow depth of field. If you understand how apertures work then you’ll already know that a small f/stop number, such as F/3.5 or lower will give you that nice blurred background. Bokeh isn’t affected by shutter speed or ISO.

bokeh photography image 9
bokeh photography image 8

Adjusting the Effect

The bokeh effect is variable though. It’s not solely set by a small f/stop number – relative distance has a big part to play.

Remembering that depth of field is determined by;

  1. The distance from the camera to the subject
  2. The subject to the background

If you are finding that your aperture setting isn’t giving you that soft bokeh background then bring your subject further away from the background. Alternatively, you can bring the camera closer to the subject thereby making the distance to the background (for the subject) relatively longer.

Using longer telephoto lenses are also great at compressing the background of a shot and offers a nicer bokeh photography effect along with the right aperture setting. Make sure that these changes in the distance don’t compromise your framing of the photo.

Foreground Bokeh

It’s not all about the bokeh in the background – you can bring it to the fore too.

By simply using a set of twinkly fairy lights and holding them around the end of the camera. While still using that low f/stop number focus on the subject in the distance and those twinkly lights will become a wonderful foreground bokeh blur.

bokeh photography image 3 foreground bokeh


Bokeh photography is that easy to capture! Just remember to use that wide aperture setting and getting the distances correct. If you’ve been giving bokeh a try then share your efforts to the gallery if you’re an iPhotography learner.

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