How to Create Bokeh in Your Photos

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Bokeh is a photographic term used to describe a lens effect wherein the background of the photo is out of focus. This effect is used to blur out distracting backgrounds and give emphasis to the the primary subject of the photo.

There are two ways to get bokeh when taking pictures. The first is by using a very large aperture to get a shallow depth of field. You can set your camera’s aperture to f/5 or below. This will effectively throw everything behind your subject out of focus. You can also blur out the background of your photo by using a long telephoto lens. There is no hard rule on how long your lens should be but the longer its reach, the more pronounced the bokeh is going to be.

Below are two pictures wherein you can see the effect of using a telephoto lens. Both shots where taken with an aperture setting of f/22 so we can isolate the effect of the focal length on the photos’ bokeh. The first shot was taken at 55mm and the second at 250mm. You can see that at 55mm, the background still retains a lot of detail while at 250mm the leaves in the background were completely blurred out.

Combining the two techniques of using a wide aperture setting and long focal length will give you a more intense bokeh effect.

There are many ways in which you can use Photoshop to blur out the background of your photos. Here’s one way to do it using Layer Masks.

First, open your photo and right-click on the Background Layer in the Layers Pallete. Select Duplicate Layer from the pop-up menu and click on OK.Once you have a duplicate of your background layer, you need to click on Add Layer Mask at the bottom of the Layers Pallete.Still on the Layers Pallete, you need to click on the thumbnail of your photo in the Background Copy layer.After that, select Filter from the menu. Go to Blur then click on Gaussian Blur.The slide at the bottom of the Gaussian Blur menu controls the intensity of the blur you are applying to the photo. You will see that it will blur the entire photo including the main subject but this will be corrected this later. In the example, we selected a Radius of 1.9. Click on OK. You now need to select the mask from your Background Copy layer. You can do this by clicking on the white rectangle on the right of the Background Copy thumbnail in the Layers Pallete.Now select the Paint Bucket Tool from the tool bar. Press “X” on your keyboard to make the foreground color black and click on any part of your photo. You will see that the blur you added a while ago will disappear. You then need to select the Brush Tool from the tool bar and press “X” again on your keyboard to make the foreground color white.What you will now do is to paint on the parts of the photo you want blurred. You can adjust the size of the brush by pressing on “[” key to make it smaller or “]” key to make it bigger.Let me know how it works for you.

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