Ep 28: Bok bok bokeh: How to get beautiful blurry backgrounds


It’s an art to create images that have beautiful blurry backgrounds. Whether you are shooting portraits, still life, lifestyle, corporate images or events, it pays to know how to get just the right blurry background … or bokeh. That’s the technical term.

Gina and Valerie discuss exactly what you need to do to achieve beautiful blurry backgrounds regardless of what kind of camera or lens you are using. (And yes, you can even achieve this on your smartphone!).

This week’s theme for #ginachallenge is “bokeh” or “blurry backgrounds”

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes

Useful links

2015 Winning Photographers

Tyra Banks, 41, dares to bare her early morning face on Instagram without a lick of make-up or any ‘freakin’ filters’

Photo critique

Rany Tan – Photo set
Please critique. Adjusted exposure, highlight & shadow and cropped in post.

Although this is my second model shoot, I started to feel being repetitive.

What is bokeh and why should you care?

Bokeh 1

Bokeh 2

Bokeh 3

Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”.

Bokeh is the quality and look of blur not how much something is out of focus.

What are the 5 factors that influence the quality of bokeh?

1. Aperture
Select manual mode or Aperture priority. The wider the better f2.8 and wider gives the best bokeh.

2.Focal Length
Longer prime and zoom lens gives you better looking bokeh.

3.Proximity to subject/how close you can focus

4.How far away from the background the subject is

5.Light quality

What lenses create the best bokeh and why?

  • Under 50mm gets tricky
  • 50mm 1.2 nice
  • A lens with aperture having more (7 or 9) and rounded blades will give better Bokeh then one with fewer or straight blades.
  • For Nikon system the Nikon 50 mm 1.8 g and 1.4 g have 7 and 9 rounded aperture blades respectively. So these lenses give great bokeh.
  • Also to consider 85 mm 1.2 is king
  • Nikon 105mm f/2.8 gives great bokeh
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR – good bokeh
  • Canon 70-200

What contributes to good bokeh and why?

  • If you are going to throw the background out of focus look for deep backgrounds.
  • Avoid dark heavy or busy backgrounds with sharp edges they may distract.
  • Bright lights look awesome.
  • Car parks
  • Shopping malls
  • Lots of neon lights
  • Create your own background using strands of xmas lights

How to create great bokeh using kit lenses and mobile phone lens

Bokeh eg 1
Bok Bok Bokeh using Big boy lens (105mm)
Bok Bok Bokeh using kit lens (55mm) on 1000D Camera
Bok Bok Bokeh using kit lens (55mm) on 1000D Camera
Bokeh using iphone
Bokeh using iphone

How to make custom bokeh shapes

Bokeh shapes

A bit of fun with bokeh for special occasions …

What you need:

  • thick black card
  • blade
  • pen

How to:

  • Trace a circle onto card that is same size as your lens
  • Cut it out
  • Draw a shape (eg paws, love hearts, initials) approx 1-2cm wide in the centre of you circle
  • Cut it out using a sharp knife. Try and avoid fuzzy/furry edges because it will show up on your bokeh
  • Attach it to your lens with blue tack

If you feel like getting fancy you can get a printer to custom print your designs.
Try your initials or a logo or 3 letter word for fun

Bokeh Calculator http://www.billionbokehs.com/

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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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