What Is Bokeh And How To Create Bokeh While Taking Photographs?

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what is a bokeh

In the world of photography, the one word that rules all, happens to be ‘bokeh’. You will be seeing this word used around a lot, and while this is one of the words that have very little meanings outside photography, we don’t even want to pay attention to that.

But what is bokeh, to begin with? Well, that is what we are going to try and figure out for you. I understand that it is something that can be simply explained in a few words, but we would not want to do that for the simplest reason that we want the readers to understand everything about this.

That is why in this guide, we are exploring more or less everything about bokeh, so more and more people know what it is and how to achieve the perfect one whenever you are taking photos. That will make life a lot easier for aspiring photographers.

What Is Bokeh?

First, I have to get it out of the way by telling you that bokeh is also known as boke. So, if you do see this term being used around, you don’t have to be confused about it at all.

But with that out of the way, it does remain one of the most popular subjects in photography and for all the right reasons.

Bokeh photo of a camera

These are the main characteristics because of which the photos appear visually better for a lot of people. The word comes from the Japanese language and translates into a blur.

But, how can you introduce blur into photos and make them look appealing? Considering how blur is the one thing that is a bane for many photographers?

Well, that is what I’m here for. The purpose of this entire guide is to dissect the subject to the best of our ability so all the readers can understand what is being discussed here, and at the end, can handle things in the best possible way, to begin with. You will not have any issues that might come in the way, and you can easily master them, as well.

The Good & Bad Bokeh

Okay, this one is interesting because many people are unaware of this almost entirely. But the thing that you need to know is that bokeh is not always good. As a matter of fact, at the hands of an amateur, this can be the opposite, which could result in a ruined picture.

So, what is a good bokeh, you ask? Well, good bokeh means that you are getting a background that has zero hard edges or sharper ones. Everything looks like it is blending into one and the other and looks creamy. I know it might sound strange, but this is how it should be, in the first place.

Bad Bokeh vs Good Bokeh The Difference

As for the bad bokeh, it is the exact opposite of what good bokeh is, which means that you are looking at a background with sharp lines, double lines, as well as circles that have sharp edges.

In simpler words, bad bokeh is not good for your pictures and is going to pictures look horrendous and must be avoided at all costs.

Thankfully, avoiding good, bad bokeh is perhaps one of the easiest things that you can do, and you will be able to achieve that without any issues that might come your way.

How Do You Capture A Bokeh Photo?

Now that you have developed an understanding of what bokeh is, the next step that I want to discuss is just how you can capture Bokeh in a photo.

It is not something that just works on its own, and while you can achieve it with a good lens that has a good aperture, there are a few things that you must know in the first place.

image of a person holding camera

For starters, you are going to need a lens with a wide aperture; think f/2.8 or below. Naturally, every shot that you take with such lenses with the aperture wide open will result in good bokeh.

However, if you are outdoors, having the aperture wide open is going to introduce a lot of light in the photo and might overblow the exposure completely.

To tackle this, you just have to increase the shutter speed to a point where the picture stops appearing overblown with exposure, and you are still able to get great-looking bokeh.

Remember, a good lens with a wide aperture is always important because, without that, you might not get anywhere.

Depth Of Field And Bokeh

I have seen this numerous times that a lot of the people end up confusing depth of field and bokeh with one and the other. That is never the case because both of these aspects of photography are inherently different from one and the other.

image of camera taaking picture of another camera

For starters, depth of field refers to the area of an image that is in focus; this means that the area that is covering the focused part in a photo or a video is called depth of field. Anything that is out of focus cannot be considered the depth of field.

Bokeh, on the other hand, is something that refers to how the light appears within the blurred part of the background, the most common form of light in bokeh is spherical, but it varies from lens to lens and is based on different factors that we will be talking about in detail.

The difference between these two aspects is little, but you have to understand that they are not the same at all.

Important Factors That Affect Bokeh

Now, whenever you are doing your research about bokeh, it is going to be an important thing to know that some factors can affect bokeh. Which means that they can change how everything looks. Below are some of them mentioned.

image of person taking photo of a bird
  • Aperture: If you want the best possible bokeh, make sure that your aperture is opened as wide as possible.
  • Focal Length: This normally applies to zoom lenses, but when you are using one, it is important to understand that you will get a better bokeh at the longest focal length of the lens than at a shorter one.
  • Shooting Distance: I know it might not be something that a lot of people are going to understand. But, when you are talking about good photography, you have to be certain of the fact that you are fully aware of how the shooting distance, as well as the distance between the subject and background, means a lot when you are creating bokeh.

That way, you will easily be able to take the shot that you want to take without having any issues in the bokeh.

Recommended reading: How To Pose For Pictures Like Hollywood Celebrities!

Lens Quality Matters

Now, when you are talking about getting incredibly quality bokeh, you already know that several factors come into play, but a lot of people wonder if lenses have anything to do with the process, and it does.

image of three different camera lenses

You can never get the same results from an average lens that was shipped in the box with your camera. This means that you should always buy a lens that is good and has a great aperture. Prime lenses are a great example of such lenses if you want to spend money.

The point is that if you are genuinely looking for a great overall experience, it is better that you are investing in a good lens because that is the one thing that is going to take you a long way, and you will do just fine when you are going there, in the first place. That is what we can guarantee you.

Bokeh Shapes

Another thing that most people don’t realise about bokeh at all is that they do come in different shapes and sizes. For instance, there is circular bokeh that is, as the name suggests, fully circular. Then you have a hexagonal shaped bokeh, as well, along with a few other types.

A Bokeh Image of a man on street

If you wonder how that works, honestly, it works because of how the lens blades are arranged. The more blades in a lens, the more consistent the bokeh is.

However, it does not matter if it does not form a perfect circle, because more often than not, different shapes end up looking artistic as well.

The point is that if you are looking for great-looking photos, this is the way to go, to begin with, and you will not have any problems that might come your way, at all.

Related reading: White Balance In Photography & How Does It Work?

Important Tips For Taking Breathtaking Bokeh Images

Honestly, if you are looking to take photos with excellent bokeh, the process is not that difficult. Quite the contrary, to be honest, as it is one of the easiest ways of taking photos, and that is what we are going to focus on here.

1- Use The Right Lens

The first thing that you must know is that whenever you are in the process of taking good photos, and you want great bokeh, you can start by using the right lens as it is going to be a very important factor that will influence how your photos are going to look.

Image of three lenses

You can start with a $100 lens with a wider aperture, and it will take you a long way in terms of how the picture quality is going to look like.

2- Set Your Camera To AV Mode

Now, this is something that is entirely subjective, but whenever you are taking photos, you will have to check whether you want to get things done using manual mode or you are looking for aperture priority (AV mode). The choice is yours, but if you do go with AV mode, you will have an easier time being consistent.

3- Depth-Of-Field

Depth of field is going to play an important role in the picture as well, and considering how you are the person holding the camera, it is completely under your control.

image of a person holding the camera lens

Take your time to experiment with all the things, so you do not have to stress over messing the photos up, and you will learn just fine that we can guarantee you.

However, understanding the depth of field is something that varies from person to person, and while some are good at doing so, others take some time getting the idea of what they need to do; just know what you are doing.

4- Focal Length

Focal length is another part that plays a very important role in giving you the bokeh. I have mentioned before how a longer focal length usually gets a better focal length.

image of a camera taking photo of a bed

That is why most portrait lenses start with a 50mm focal length, but if you are interested, you can even get a 35mm lens with a wider aperture, and you will get great results, to say the least.

Rest assured, as long as you have the focal length sorted out, you will not have any issues taking the picture you want to take.

5- Choose A Good Background

In addition to that, you are going to need a good background as well. I say this because it is one of the most important factors that your background is proper.

image of girl in white top

This also means that there needs to be a good separation between your subject and the background, or else you will not be able to get any sort of bokeh in the shot, and that is not what the goal here is for anyone.

6- Use Of Objects

Another thing that you should do, which is completely optional, is that you can use objects that will help you get great photos in the best possible way.

This is optional, mind you. This means that you should only use objects in a situation where the scene that you are setting up requires you to do so. Otherwise, you should not have to do it, to begin with, as it is not mandatory.

Rest assured, if you are being careful with these aspects, you will be able to take a great photo.

7- Focus On The Subject

Another thing that you must understand is that whenever you are taking a photo, it is wiser that you are focusing on the subject, because of course, if the focus is away from the subject, then what is the point of taking a proper photo, in the first place.

Image of two toy frogs

Rest assured, the process is not that difficult because focusing, in most of the cases, the camera’s job since you are using an autofocusing lens in the majority of cases.

8- Boom!

The last step is simply just taking the picture. After you have gone through everything, there is not much left that you can do. Just be certain that everything in the scene that you have worked setting up is exactly how you wanted it to be.

image of a man holding a camera

That way, you can take the picture you wish to take, and things will make perfect sense. It is not that difficult, and you would be able to take a great picture every single day, every single time, once you know what you are doing.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1- What is Bokeh mode in a mobile camera?

Answer: If you are looking to achieve bokeh on a mobile camera, it is entirely possible by using the portrait mode of the camera, which uses software magic to create a good bokeh for you. In addition to that, if there is a telephoto lens on your phone, bokeh can be achieved by using that as well, but remember that the lighting has to be good for that to happen.

Q2- What is the difference between Bokeh and portrait mode?

Answer: The main difference between bokeh and portrait mode is that the latter is digitally introduced in a photo by the mobile camera software. The reason for that is simple, it is done to create an artificial bokeh in the photo when in reality, very little done is by the actual lens. It is not that difficult and easily achievable, so always check that.

Q3- How is Bokeh calculated?

Answer: While it is safe to understand what bokeh is, calculating it is different. The formula for bokeh is Background blur at infinity = subject magnification x focal length/f-stop value. Yes, it does sound complicated, and it is. But the thing is that it only matters if you are actually doing some proper research on a different lens and potentially reviewing them.

Q4- What lens is best for Bokeh?

Answer: Normally, prime lenses with really wide apertures are used for bokeh. 50mm is one of the most common focal lengths that people use for portraits, followed by 85mm, but that does not mean that you are limited to just these focal lengths for great bokeh. So, you should not let these factors limit you in any way.

Q5- Is Bokeh better on full-frame?

Answer: This is something that a lot of people have discussed on several occasions, but if you are wondering whether bokeh is better on full frame as compared to APS-C or micro-four-thirds sensor simply because of the larger sensor size that can take in more light. So, yes, a full-frame sensor is always going to give you a better bokeh.


I could say that bokeh is the one thing around which photography runs for many people and they would agree with me simply because it has been brought up so many times that it has become almost difficult to deal with but in reality, it is true for a lot of people.

However, achieving this is not that difficult. I understand that as a beginner there might be a few things that can confuse you because that is the same that happened with me when I started photography but after spending months into it, I finally mastered the art of it and the portraits that I used to take came out great.

So, it is always better to keep practising until you master the craft that you have been wanting to.

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