For today's post, I thought it was time for a bokeh tutorial.
If you aren't already familiar with how to intentionally blur your background, have a look at this earlier post on how to get a blurred background. If you don't have a DSLR or camera where you can manually change your settings, you will likely have a "portrait" mode - use this setting and the camera will blur the background for you.
Here are the steps for getting good "bokeh".....
- Shoot at a Low Aperture - If you only follow one rule - let this be it! Use a small F number to give you a wide aperture and throw your background out of focus. I would suggest using F2.8 or lower - however, please note it will take practice to use lower F stops and still get your intended subject all in focus. You can still get good bokeh at higher numbers, depending on your distance from the subject and the distance of your subject from the background.
- Watch Your Depth Of Field Working with large apertures means that you will have a smaller area in focus - this is called your depth of field. For example, when working with a small aperture numbers the area in focus can sometime be as small as a few centimetres. If you are unsure, use this depth of field calculator.
- Separate Your Subject From The Background - put as much distance between your subject and the background as you can. The further away from the background they are, the more the background will blur. If your subject is up against a wall you won't get much bokeh, no matter what you do!
- Get Close To Your Subject - Stand physically closer to your subject as the depth of field will be much shallower. Just be careful not to get too close and mind the minimum focusing distance of your lens.
- Use A Longer Focal Length - Conversely to the tip above, you will also see more dramatic blur using a 135mm lens than you will using a 50mm lens. If you are using a zoom, zoom all the way out to the longest focal length (but be aware than on some cheaper zoom lenses the image quality can drop off at the highest zoom range) or put on a longer length prime.
- Get Yourself A Fast Lens - If you only have the kit lens that came with your camera you might want to invest in lens that goes to lower apertures - the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is an affordable example. Primes lenses are probably best for bokeh because they go to lower apertures than their zoom counterparts, but zooms will also work well, especially those with a longer focal length and fixed aperture.
- Work On Your Focusing - If you are shooting at very low apertures you will want to ensure that your point of focus is absolutely spot on. You can read more about how to achieve this here but choosing your own focal point is a good place to start. Start at a higher aperture and work your way down the F stops!
- Choose Your Background - To get really pleasing and pretty bokeh, look at the background that will be blurred out. If you have a dark background with no points of light the tones of the background will fade and merge into one another. This can be made even more beautiful if you have a lovely range of tones in the image. If you have light in the out of focus area these will be seen as small circles of light - higher quality lenses will result in smoother circles.