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Thread: Attempting bokeh........

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    Member MMF's Avatar
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    Attempting bokeh........

    Hi folks,

    I've been attempting to get a photo that has a bokeh effect, and I need help. I've got one shot that sorta worked but in most I'm either blowing out the lights and over exposing them or under exposing the main subject and getting the lights to give a good effect.
    Unfortunately my laptop is flatso can't post photos just yet but does anyone have some tips I can try in the mean time
    thanks MMF

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Good bokeh is related to the aperture used and distance to subject more than anything else. But some lenses are also known for producing better bokeh than others as glass quality etc comes into play.

    To get good bokeh you need to separate your subject from the background (by using distance), using a large aperture, and making sure you subject when focused on is not to far away from the lens. The further away your subject is from the lens, the more will be in focus in your shot, rather than out of focus (and thus bokeh, created).

    If you are using a wide aperture and your subject is over-exposed, then you need to increase your shutter speed.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    Thanks rick, looking at what I've got I think I've had things to close to each other causing the problem..... Back to the drawing board now

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    As Rick states, bokeh has much to do with the aperture used and the subject to camera distance as well as subject to background distance, but also lighting has a very dramatic affect on your final result for bokeh. It can be difficult to get decent bokeh when you have bright background and dull subject matter.

    Generally speaking, it is easier to get nice bokeh with longer lenses as they tend to have narrower DOF for a given aperture and you are also generally trying to get close to your subject using a longer lens whereas with a wide angle lens you are further away which tends to give larger DOF and hence limiting decent bokeh. However, you can still get great bokeh from very wide angle lenses, as shown below, if you get close enough to your main subject matter.

    Also, as Rick states, there are lenses that are designed to have better bokeh than other lenses. Again, generally speaking, primes have better bokeh than zooms and the more you pay, the more attention the manufacturer has paid to the design and the use of better glass in order to get good Out Of Focus (OOF) blur or bokeh.

    Bokeh can also be subjective, ie, one man's good bokeh is another's blurry mess.

    Here are a few that I quite like that i took. I will give the lens used and the aperture and some notes.

    Nikon D800E + 24mm f1.4G @ f2.8. As you can see, this has very creamy bokeh and due to the fact that there are no highlights behind the subject, I am very close to the subject (about 300mm) and using a relatively wide aperture of f2.8. This lens is known for having good bokeh and hence the high price tag!


    Bikon D800 + 300mm f2.8 VRII + 1.4x TCII @ f5.6. Again, very creamy bokeh, but this example is taken with a 300mm lens plus a 1.4 x teleconverter making it a 420mm f4 lens, but taken at f5.6 and probablyu about 5mts at a guess. This lens and TC combo has superb bokeh at around f5.6 and this sbject distance.


    Nikon D800E + 85mm f1.4G. Using the superb Nikon 85mm f1.4G lens known for it's sharpness (one of Nikons sharpest) and bokeh, a series of shots I took of some flowers ranging from f1.4 right throught to f11 at every full aperture. However, I have just posted 3 here to demonstrate how aperture affects the bokeh and DOF.
    @ f1.4


    @ f4


    @ f11



    It is also best to try to avoid busy backgrounds especially where there are highlights as the busy background can just end up being a mess of dots. You can reduce this if the background is far enough away, like this.
    D800E + 300mm f2.8 VRII @ f5.6. Generally, these Tea Trees, where this Kestrel was sitting and are in the background, are awful for bokeh, but the background was far enough away and the lens was sufficiently long and the aperture just about spot on, that it put it all out of focus into a nice creamy blur. Even the slight highlights were subdued enough to not be an issue.


    An example of not so good, busy background clutter causing not so good bokeh
    D700 + 70-200 f2.8 VRII + 2x TCIII @ f8 and 400mm.


    If you are shooting a bird on the ground, or a dog, or small child or whatever, get low and on the same level as the subject so as to take the ground out of the equation and therefore make the background further away, thus making your bokeh better. If you are shooting at a downward angle, then your background, ie, the ground is close to the subject, but if you get low, then the ground is taken further away or right out of contention. The above shot was taken looking down on the cassowarry and thus bringing it into contention as a background and the fact it is woodchip made it a busy and sitracting background.

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    Good info there Lance

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    At the risk of being the 'usage Police', bokeh is defined as:

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/de.../bokeh?q=bokeh

    Although the term is relatively new to the English language, so you can make it mean anything you like as long as you can get other people to understand you, it has come to relate to the quality, not quantity of the out of focus (OOF) area. The quality is often described as swirly, harsh, soft, smooth, creamy, nisen, doughnut or catadioptric, overcorrected SA, under corrected SA to name a few.

    Typically 'good' bokeh is deemed to be soft, creamy, smooth and most importantly it does NOT distract from the subject itself. Virtually ALL high end cine (movie) lenses are built around the need to deliver smooth bokeh, amongst other criteria, as bad or harsh bokeh is extremely distracting in moving images. It's rare to see bad bokeh in big budget movies because the best gear/lenses/cinematographers are used however it's fairly common to see harsh and distracting bokeh on TV simply due to the popularity of inexpensive HD quality cameras, but unfortunately with mediocre lenses.

    Typically 'bad' bokeh is deemed to be harsh or distracting so much so that it competes for attention or is even potentially as prominent as the subject itself. Of course this can be used to advantage, as a compositional element of it's own.

    Here are some examples of good (left hand side) then bad (right hand side). These were created artificially but they serve to illustrate the point.







    Note that the last bokeh examples were from the same lens and the only difference was that the lens was focused at different points, one in front and the other behind the subject. So a lens very often has both good and bad bokeh, but on either side of the plane of focus. Most times we are pre-occupied with the OOF area BEHIND the subject so are often ignorant of the fact that the quality of the bokeh is often not the same on both sides of the plane of focus!

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    JJ makes some very valid points about bokeh.

    Too many times I see people refer to very good bokeh, when in fact there really is none .. and the background is just a complete blur.

    To the OP. Be weary of trying to create pleasant OOF areas with cheap kit lenses, or wide angle lenses.
    Rare is the kit lens or wide angle lens that naturally creates smooth bokeh.


    As for bad bokeh .... I'll have donuts anytime of the day!
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    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


  8. #8
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    JJ makes some very valid points about bokeh.
    It must be me, but I don't see any good bokeh in the samples he has given. But as we say, bokeh is subjective.

    Too many times I see people refer to very good bokeh, when in fact there really is none .. and the background is just a complete blur.
    But that is the point, there is good blur and not good blur, or should I say, there is good bokeh and not good bokeh.

    The fact that it is creamy does not detract from the subject and that is the point.

    To the OP. Be weary of trying to create pleasant OOF areas with cheap kit lenses, or wide angle lenses.
    Rare is the kit lens or wide angle lens that naturally creates smooth bokeh.
    I know it is subjective, but I have to say that the Nikon 24mm 1.4 sample I gave above I feel is good bokeh. Smooth and creamy, which by most accounts is good bokeh. I have seen many examples where a wide angle lens gives excellent bokeh.


    As for bad bokeh .... I'll have donuts anytime of the day!
    Ooh, no. surely not donuts.
    Last edited by Lance B; 29-12-2013 at 11:50pm.

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