We all love a creamy bokeh background! Bokeh comes from the Japanese word “boke” which means blur or haze. A bokeh can help bring focus to your photo’s subject by keeping it sharp and clear and blurring the background. Bokeh can also be created by bringing lights out to focus to create orbs and patterns. Many photographers strive to achieve a beautiful bokeh that is smooth and blended.
Although you can create a bokeh effect with other lenses, a good quality prime lens will allow you to shoot with a wide aperture. Try practicing with a lens that has an aperture of f/2 or lower with your subject standing away from the background.
Want to get to know the lenses you already have in your kit? I encourage you to run a little experiment. Pick out a stationary subject and background and start shooting. With your first lens, drop the aperture to the lowest setting. Take a picture and then kick the f stop to the next setting. Keep going and try to shoot from the same spot and distance from the subject with each shot. Repeat this with each of your lenses, and upload your results. Flip through them and note the differences each setting creates.
Creating an aesthetically pleasing bokeh truly comes in handy when you’re using sources of artificial lighting like Christmas lights, lamps, and signs. Try practicing the same procedure with your studio set up using different levels of focus and levels of light. If you use neon signs or lamps in your studio, see which f stop compliments your model and decor the best! Playing with light may help you unlock a new favorite way of shooting.
Have you ever held items up close to your lens while shooting? There are some very useful tools to add to your kit to bring a new effect to your sessions. If you’d like to try an easy trick, bring plastic wrap or a plastic sandwich bag and wrap it around the perimeter of your lens. Set your focus on your subject and allow the plastic to blur into the background. You can also utilize prisms and lights around your lense to help create new effects.
Next time you’re shooting, try experimenting with different fields of depth. Take a step closer to your subject so they are the main focus. This will create a more noticeable bokeh background on your portraits. Another technique to try is to have your subject take a step farther away from the background or light source. Experiment with the different aperture levels, and have your subject take a step closer to you for each shot. For example, drop your aperture to the lowest setting and take a picture of your subject. Have your subject take a step closer to you and take another. Repeat the process one more time, and then bump your aperture and try again.
Taking the time to get to know the capabilities of your camera can help you grow as a photographer, even if it’s something you’ve tried before, as no two experiences are alike. What did you find? Sometimes we get stuck in a certain way of shooting and forget to explore the basics from time to time. I hope you can unlock new levels of creativity!