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The term bokeh refers to the out-of-focus areas of an image, when using a shallow depth-of-field to focus on something in the foreground of an image. To achieve it, simply focus on something in the foreground while using the lowest numbered f-stop possible on your camera/lens combination. Using the “macro” setting (typically a flower icon) on your camera’s auto settings accomplishes the same thing.


I’ve used this image on this site before, but I believe it’s a good example of the bokeh effect. Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/500), Aperture: f/4.5, Focal Length: 46 mm, ISO Speed: 320.

When I was first learning this, a memory trick that I used to remember which f-stops achieve which types of focus was to recall “small number = small focus” and “big number = big focus”. For example, an f-stop something around the lines of f5.6 or smaller will achieve a blurred background effect, while an f-stop of around f20 will put the entire image into focus with no blurred background effect.

Some photographic techniques use the bokeh effect to draw attention to the subject in the foreground, while others use the bokeh effect as the subject of the photograph.

Exposure: 0.013 sec (1/80), Aperture: f/1.7, Focal Length: 50 mm, ISO Speed: 100.

Exposure: 0.25 sec (1/4), Aperture: f/3.5, Focal Length: 18 mm, ISO Speed: 100 – click on the picture to read about the photographer’s technique in capturing this image.

It’s a fun and addictive photography technique. Please feel free to share some of your own examples of the use of bokeh in the comments!

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Wildflowers” by Laura Charon.
- “My love for bokeh” by Pranav on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “When bokeh and alcohol mix” by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr Creative Commons.

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