Are your photos falling short in the pop department? One of the most over looked compositional elements can be to blame, Bokeh. Simply put bokeh is a technique where the photographer throws the background out of focus, creating a soft blend of the background objects.
So, what does throwing the background out of focus do? When the subject is sharp and the background is blurred the subject tends to stand off from the background. Almost like a 3D object. Therefore, your subject is more likely to pop out at the viewers. In the photo of the butterfly the foliage in the background is blurred to allow the viewer to see the butterfly with out distraction.
Throwing the background out of focus is not always as easy as it seems. Bokeh does have quality and quantity levels that make the blurring effect good and bad. Yes, you heard correctly there is good bokeh and bad bokeh. Without going into great detail, I am going to say that the blur should be smooth, blending the objects and lights evenly. Bokeh that creates shapes are not the most pleasing to view. To do this, we generally use a shallow depth of field, keeping the subject in sharp focus and the background out of focus.
Steps to Creating Good Bokeh
- Equipment: A camera that allows you to control the aperture settings will be needed. A DSLR or SLR is preferred. If you have a camera in the point and shoot category check for an A/V or Portrait setting, either of these will usually work.
- Turn off any and all flash units. Flash is not good for boken.
- The objective is to get a shallow depth of field, which can be achieved in several ways. The shallow depth of field will throw objects behind the subject out of focus and hopefully creating a nice smooth bokeh. I prefer the A/V setting to be in the area or 4.0 if possible, 5.6 at the highest f/stop and 2.8 at the lowest f/stop. If your camera does not have the A/V setting, try the portrait setting. Generally speaking it does not work as well as the A/V setting. If all else fails, move your subject away from the background (more than a few feet).
- Focus on the subject and click.
You can bring your photos back to life and make them pop with just a little good bokeh. Try it, I know you will like the results.