As with most hobbies, photography has lingo. I’m slowly (verrrry slowly) starting to learn this lingo and explore ways to incorporate different techniques into my shots. One of my favorites so far is bokeh.
What the heck is bokeh?
According to Wikipedia (my favorite unreliable source), bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of a photo. I have read a significant amount of online debate regarding the difference between bokeh and depth of field. What I’ve come away with is bokeh is about the quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photo; whereas depth of field is about the area of sharp focus in a photo.
How the heck do you say bokeh?
I had fun with this one. Check out this YouTube video on how to pronounce bokeh. Then read the comments. My favorite thing about YouTube is the comments. Basically I still am not 100% sure how to say bokeh, because there are differing opinions. Feel free to chime in with a comment if you know how to say it.
What I find most interesting about bokeh is not the technique itself, but the many different forms it can take. In other words, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Below are some of my photos, which I’ve grouped into each of these categories.
Bokeh works well when the blurred part of the image doesn’t draw the eye away from the main subject. In these examples, the blurred background adds some interest, but isn’t distracting.
Bokeh can also turn out poorly. Instead of enhancing a photo, it can draw the eye away from the main subject. Here are some good (or shall I say bad) examples of that from my own collection.
In the photo above, the candle flame in the back of this dish is distracting.
Oh Misfit Kitty…you are so cute. But back to bokeh. In this instance, the zebra bowl in the background is distracting despite the blur. The contrast in the black and white, and the fact that the bowl is significant in size, makes it stand out.
Sometimes bokeh can go beyond bad and turn into the ugly. See what I mean below.
NO. I’m not saying my niece is ugly…but that stupid red cup at the right is. When I look at this photo, I want to focus on my niece’s blue eyes. But all I see is that red cup. Darn you red cup!! Thank God for Photoshop. My favorite bokeh shots have very little contrast in color in the background. I’ve seen some photos done really well that do use bright colors, but they seem few and far between.
What’s your favorite photography technique?