Bokeh, usually pronounced Boo-kay (but that’s incorrect) refers to the artistic quality of the out of focus parts of a photo created by a lens. The correct way to pronounce this word is bo (like the bow in bow and arrow), and ke (like the ke in kettle)…in case anyone’s interested in saying it with enough confidence that you’ll never be questioned or challenged. In any event, I love the look whenever I’m in a position to create it.
It also has to do with the Gestalt concept of Figure-Ground; ways to separate the figure, the subject, from the ground, the background. I teach this concept in one of my three online classes with the BPSOP, and also in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around our planet.
You might be thinking that Bokeh is the blurry area behind the subject when you use a shallow DOF, making the subject the only area that’s sharp; this is not the Bokeh that I’m referring to. What I’m talking about is the out of focus highlighted points created by light. Although the blurry area is considered Bokeh, to me the quality of this Bokeh is what creates the visual interest and sometimes visual tension.
Most lens will create interesting Bokeh. Prime lens come to mind as probably the easiest way. They are usually very fast, i.e., F/1.4 so the DOF is very shallow at this aperture. If you are at the minimum focusing distance to your subject, and the background is several feet away, you can shoot at F/1.4 and create Bokeh. The type of Bokeh depends on the kind of light, and it’s direction.
I like using medium to long telephoto lens to create Bokeh. By getting as close as you can to your subjects while still being able to make them sharp, will result in visually interesting Bokeh.
In the above photo, I used a 200mm F/2.8 lens and I got as close as I could and still get the boy sharp. I was also cognizant in having his yellow slicker in front of the yellow flowers, as I’m always thinking about the use of color to communicate ideas; as well as colors that are in harmony with one another.
Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2017 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.
Send me a photo and question to AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.