Bokeh: How do you do it??


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Jul 26, 2002
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I've been looking at those wonderful shots of birds and insects and people with a nice blurred background and have been trying to achieve the same effect but have not been very successful.

What are the conditions required to achieve it? I've been told to open my aperture to its max and use a fast shutter speed. Is that right? or is it the other way round? Whats the most critical factor in obtaining a nice blurred background?
 

Papilio

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#2
Evilmerlin said:
I've been looking at those wonderful shots of birds and insects and people with a nice blurred background and have been trying to achieve the same effect but have not been very successful.

What are the conditions required to achieve it? I've been told to open my aperture to its max and use a fast shutter speed. Is that right? or is it the other way round? Whats the most critical factor in obtaining a nice blurred background?
I notice that you use a Coolpix 5700. Prosumer digicams will generally not give you the best bokeh. I believe there are many articles on the Internet explaining why. I used to shoot with a CP995. No matter what I did, the bokeh was miserable. The only time I could get a really good bokeh was when the background is very far away from the subject. :embrass:

Most of the shots that you refer to, are probably using DSLRs (or SLRs) systems with an appropriate lens. Some of the high end prosumer digicams with a larger lens barrel may be able to generate decent bokehs too. Perhaps users here who are shooting with e.g. the Sony F828 or Minolta Dimage A1/A2 can share their experiences.
 

coke21

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#3
Evilmerlin said:
I've been looking at those wonderful shots of birds and insects and people with a nice blurred background and have been trying to achieve the same effect but have not been very successful.

What are the conditions required to achieve it? I've been told to open my aperture to its max and use a fast shutter speed. Is that right? or is it the other way round? Whats the most critical factor in obtaining a nice blurred background?
Bokeh and blurred background are 2 different things. Although both can be controlled by the aperature size. So which one do you want to acheive?
 

ralph

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coke21 said:
Bokeh and blurred background are 2 different things. Although both can be controlled by the aperature size. So which one do you want to acheive?
hi, care to elaborate on the differences?

thks.
 

ghibli

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#6
coke21 said:
Bokeh and blurred background are 2 different things. Although both can be controlled by the aperature size. So which one do you want to acheive?
You asked a good question. Initially, I thot the thread starter was referring to the blurred background effect created from a shallow DOF - from what you said, I presume this is not called Bokeh? Can you tell what is Bokeh, or if it's difficult with words, show a visual example? Many thanks.
ps: i have read the other threads on Bokeh :bigeyes: , but still don't quite understand :embrass: , so perhaps a visual example would help.
 

coke21

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#7
ghibli said:
You asked a good question. Initially, I thot the thread starter was referring to the blurred background effect created from a shallow DOF - from what you said, I presume this is not called Bokeh? Can you tell what is Bokeh, or if it's difficult with words, show a visual example? Many thanks.
ps: i have read the other threads on Bokeh :bigeyes: , but still don't quite understand :embrass: , so perhaps a visual example would help.

"Bokeh is simply a way to describe how out-of-focus points of light are rendered. It describes the appearance or "feel" of out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds. Differing amounts of spherical aberration alter how lenses render out-of-focus points of light, and thus their bokeh. The word "bokeh" comes from Japanese. I forget what it originally means." (Ken Rockwell)


Bokeh refers to the circles of light that are captured in a picture. Usually referred to as circles of confusion. you can see an example here http://forums.clubsnap.org/showthread.php?t=64951

Its on the left side of the picture, 2 orangey circles. Those are acheived with a small aperature number. Bokeh does not appear on every photo even though you use a small aperature number. Occurance of Bokeh depends on the scene that you are taking whether there are points of light or not. If no, then no bokeh.
 

zombiez

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#8
Papilio said:
I notice that you use a Coolpix 5700. Prosumer digicams will generally not give you the best bokeh. I believe there are many articles on the Internet explaining why. I used to shoot with a CP995. No matter what I did, the bokeh was miserable. The only time I could get a really good bokeh was when the background is very far away from the subject. :embrass:

Most of the shots that you refer to, are probably using DSLRs (or SLRs) systems with an appropriate lens. Some of the high end prosumer digicams with a larger lens barrel may be able to generate decent bokehs too. Perhaps users here who are shooting with e.g. the Sony F828 or Minolta Dimage A1/A2 can share their experiences.
Papilio ==> :kok: <== zombiez
 

ghibli

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#9
Thanks for your help, coke21. The picture sure helps a lot. I have a photo full of Bokehs then...it was taken (auto mode?) inside a cave which was situated behind a waterfall. The environment was dark and slightly misty, and many of these faint white circles appeared on the photos. :dunno:
 

coke21

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#10
ghibli said:
Thanks for your help, coke21. The picture sure helps a lot. I have a photo full of Bokehs then...it was taken (auto mode?) inside a cave which was situated behind a waterfall. The environment was dark and slightly misty, and many of these faint white circles appeared on the photos. :dunno:
No problem. Most cameras in auto mode tend to set the aperature to the largest (smallest f/stop) and thus you get the bokeh.
 

Zerstorer

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coke21 said:
Bokeh does not appear on every photo even though you use a small aperature number. Occurance of Bokeh depends on the scene that you are taking whether there are points of light or not. If no, then no bokeh.
What you are referring to is just depth of field effects. The term bokeh should not be used in such a manner.
Bokeh refers to the circles of light that are captured in a picture. Usually referred to as circles of confusion. you can see an example here http://forums.clubsnap.org/showthread.php?t=64951

Its on the left side of the picture, 2 orangey circles. Those are acheived with a small aperature number.
Hi, bokeh is simply a qualitative statement on how out of focus areas of an image are rendered. What you are pointing to are out of focus highlights, which are an expression of bokeh but not what bokeh actually means.

When one talks about bokeh, you only say how good the bokeh is or how bad the bokeh is. You don't talk about how much bokeh there is or whether bokeh exists or not as bokeh is not a quantitative expression.

In short, bokeh simply means "out of focus rendering".
 

Papilio

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#14
zombiez said:
Papilio ==> :kok: <== zombiez
Yes? :blah:

Just to continue, the CP995/CP4500 gives "poor" bokeh. Even wide open at f3.8 and with the backgrounds fairly far away, most of the shots have marginally out of focus, but distinctly discernible features. So if you hope to get one of those butter-smooth featureless backgrounds, the small lens digicams will not be able to achieve that. Any advice from the experts here on why this is so?
 

coke21

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#15
Zerstorer said:
What you are referring to is just depth of field effects. The term bokeh should not be used in such a manner.

Hi, bokeh is simply a qualitative statement on how out of focus areas of an image are rendered. What you are pointing to are out of focus highlights, which are an expression of bokeh but not what bokeh actually means.

When one talks about bokeh, you only say how good the bokeh is or how bad the bokeh is. You don't talk about how much bokeh there is or whether bokeh exists or not as bokeh is not a quantitative expression.

In short, bokeh simply means "out of focus rendering".
Did not know that it was a qualitative statment as you put it. Is there somewhere I can read abt this?
 

Zerstorer

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Hi,
You actually quoted Ken Rockwell yourself in your initial post. That was exactly what he meant.
"Bokeh is simply a way to describe how out-of-focus points of light are rendered. It describes the appearance or "feel" of out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds."
Describing appearance or feel is a qualitative subjective statement, not quantitative.

Further sites saying the same thing:
http://www.flarg.com/bokeh.html
http://www.pathcom.com/~vhchan/bokeh.html "A term used to describe the portions of the photograph that are not it focus"
http://medfmt.8k.com/mf/bokeh.html
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/bokeh.shtml "The Japanese apparently refer to the quality of the out-of-focus image as "boke""
http://www.bokeh.de/en/
 

justarius

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#17
yah, must agree that bokeh is different from blurred back ground.

Focussing on a close subject using a large aperture will give you blurred background. This will happen with any lens of a sufficiently large aperture or when your subject distance is very small.

Bokeh is more a function unique to the particular type of lens you are using. It's used to describe how the out of focus highlights in your blurred background looks.

Some lens give a very harsh bokeh, ie the highlights in the out of focus background is very harsh and jumps out at you, distracting from the main subject. Other lenses give a very smooth creamy bokeh, rendering everything homogenous, with no harsh highlights etc. The lenses with good bokeh are normally used for portraits as it gives a pleasing and non-distracting effect. Examples of lenses with good bokeh include the Nikkor 85 f1.4 or the Nikkor 105 f2.0 DC. :D
 

Jul 26, 2002
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#18
Wow, didn'nt know that there was such a large difference in bokeh and "blurred backgrounds"! All along I was thinking they were the same. What I'm trying to achieve is something like that photo which megaweb took.

Its that nice uniform colour at background while having your subject in sharp focus. Thats What I'm trying to achieve.
 

Azure

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#19
Evilmerlin said:
Wow, didn'nt know that there was such a large difference in bokeh and "blurred backgrounds"! All along I was thinking they were the same. What I'm trying to achieve is something like that photo which megaweb took.

Its that nice uniform colour at background while having your subject in sharp focus. Thats What I'm trying to achieve.
Then it lies with how you take the picture, not your camera. Even my 950 could achieve that.
 

Papilio

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#20
Azure said:
Then it lies with how you take the picture, not your camera. Even my 950 could achieve that.
Using macro mode, and appropriate aperture and given the right conditions, I guess the CP995 or your 950 can achieve a reasonably "blurred background".

However I find it quite hard to get what we're getting with the DSLRs and the bigger diameter barrel lens prosumer digicams - particularly when shooting macro/nature shots.

Do you have a shot that shows such a situation that you mentioned that you can achieve a near-smooth background with your CP950? It would help to learn how you achieve that effect with the 950.
 

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