The classic Bokeh look in photography is a little challenging to quantify, but it’s an important one to understand because you can do amazing things with the concept. Basically, at its core, Bokeh is the idea of having blurred images that enhance the quality of the main subject of a picture. There are a number of different methods that one can employ to achieve the ideal Bokeh look, but there is what is known as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Bokeh bokeh.
The Good Bokeh
When you notice a picture that has a center point subject (for example a person) and the background image, whether it’s an interior room or outdoor, natural environment, is out of focus or blurred, subtly so that the blurred image doesn’t detract but rather enhances the beauty of the focal image, then this is considered good bokeh.
By rendering out of focus points of light, it places more emphasis on the key subjects of the pictures. However, it’s not always easy to create good bokeh.
The Bad Bokeh
When a blurred image is harsh or done in such a way that it either blends in with the main subject or garners more attention than the focal point of the picture, then it’s considered bad bokeh. The combination of light and the background image can have an impact on the overall quality of the bokeh that is created.
While it can be difficult to describe what bad bokeh is, the main idea is that when it’s bad, it detracts from the image, rather than enhancing or, at the very least, not taking away from the focal aspect.
How to Create the Bokeh Look
In order to achieve the bokeh look, it’s important to use the right lens and aperture settings. The lower the setting, the more the background images will become blurred. Yet choosing the wrong lens can lead to a blurred image that contrasts with the main subject. A good example of good bokeh would be a person standing in a field with the background blurred behind him so that the individual stands out clearly.
Different lenses are designed to create this stronger contrast between background images and the focal points. The goal of any bokeh look is to ensure that the background images are dimmer around the edges of the picture and especially around the center focal point of the picture. This means that the less defined shapes, such as scenery in the background, will blend smoothly.
The shape of the aperture will have an impact on the overall bokeh look as well. Most conventional aperture shapes tend to be hard-edged polygonal, but a more curved aperture shape can create a more subtle and ultimately pleasing bokeh look. Some lens manufacturers have been offering circular aperture shapes and others have been relying on lenses that cater to portrait photography, allowing the images to become more subtle without the lingering threat of harder edges that can sometimes be found with those hard-edged polygonal aperture shapes.
Understanding the classic bokeh look is a great first step in experimenting and discovering a new breadth of photographic possibilities.