10 Tips To Master The Art Of Bokeh Photography

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” ― Marc Riboud

I have always loved clicking photographs, but one thing about this field has always fascinated me. LIGHT! I was in 7th grade when I noticed how the position and intensity of light can change everything in a photograph. The contour, features, and even the personality of the subject can be manipulated with light. But, I came across the most intriguing facet of light in 8th grade.

I was standing on the terrace of a 20 floor building, looking at the cityscape at night. It was beautiful, with all the traffic and lights from a distance. But then, I took off my glasses for 10 seconds to clean them up and happened to look out without them. It was even more beautiful. The lights were unfocused and I hadn’t seen anything like that ever before. And that day, I discovered bokeh and learned that unfocused light can be better that focused light.

There are people who love bokeh, and there are people who are obsessed with it. I’m the later. So, I have compiled some tips for you, so that you can click beautiful bokeh and look at it until you fall asleep.

1. Use a large aperture

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Please keep in mind that using a large aperture means selecting the smallest f number. It will decrease you depth of field and will focus on a particula part of your frame. Use a low f-stop number like f1.4, f1.8 or f2.8.


2. Use a fast lens

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Lens speed refers to the maximum aperture (smallest f-number) of a lens. The more light you can let in, the more you can decrease depth of field. Choose a lens with large aperture. I would personally suggest a telephoto lens ( 75-300mm or 55-250mm) or a prime lens (50mm). Avoid using your kit lens (18-55mm) if possible.


3. Shutter speed should be faster than 1/50 second

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If it is any slower than that, the background lights will start getting blurred together, instead rendering small circles. Also, if it’s too dark, I would suggest to not increase the f-stop number. Instead, increase your ISO.


4. Subject should be closer to the lens, and background should be far away

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The closer you get to subject, the better. If you’re using a zoom lens, extend it to the longest focal length. Every lens has a minimum focusing distance (MFD); this is simply a measure of how close you can be to your subject and still lock focus.

Now that you are clear with the technical part, let’s discuss some creative ways of clicking bokeh!


5. Create custom bokeh by using bokeh filter

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This easy technique creates mind blowing effects that will impress all your friends. All you have to do is punch out/cut out your desired design on a circular paper, which is a little smaller than your lens. Then put it on your lens and stick it, just like a lens cap. Now, the light will burst out in that particular shape when you will try to create a bokeh. You can try different shapes for different occasions.


6. Relate foreground with the background

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A classic example of an image with low depth of field. Do you remember seeing those wedding images where the bride is in focus but the groom behind her is not? You can create the same effect, only this time the out of focus portion will be these beautiful lights. You can try it with a mug emitting bokeh, or a girl blowing bokeh kisses.


7. Experiment with rains

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I love clicking bokeh when it rains. It has two of my favourite elements, water droplets & light! What you can do is click through the glass with rain pouring on it. The droplets on the glass should be in focus, and the exterior should be out of focus. The trafic and lights outside will create a beautiful bokeh. You can also experiment with natural lights and water droplets in the open, where the water droplets outside the focus will create bokeh.


8. Go gaga during festivals

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There are lights and candles all around. If you are a bokeh lover, you won’t be able to stop yourself. You experiment a lot during festivals like Diwali or Christmas, when there are lot of lights around. You can click portraits with bokeh background, or you can just experiment with different filters or depth of field.


9. Click the traffic

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We fail to appriciate the beauty that lies in a big night traffic. If you stand at a distance from a two or more lane road, you’ll be able to see the lights separated by colour. One strip red and one strip white. So, all you have to do is take you camera out and do the magic.


10. Go natural sometimes

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If you are sick of artificial lights, then you can capture bokeh out in open too. Try the light getting through tree branches or even the grass baldes would do. If you really love bokeh, the the world is your oyester.

Fun fact: The term comes from the Japanese word boke, which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji, the “blur quality”.

Believe me, one you learn how to click a good bokeh, you’ll definitely get hooked. Hope this was helpful. Until next time! 🙂

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