- How to create a beautiful a bokeh effect
Bokeh allows you to produce really interesting effects in your photography, especially at night. Award-winning Australian Geographic photographer Chris Bray explains what a bokeh effect is and shares his five rules for experimenting with bokeh to achieve beautiful and interesting images.
The word ‘bokeh’ is derived from the Japanese word, which means ‘blur’. In photography it lends its name to the experimental technique of covering your lens with a cutout shape to achieve the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph.
There are five key rules to follow that will help you enjoy experimenting with bokeh effects for excellent images, especially when shooting at night.
The cutout masks the shape of the aperture but only affects out-of-focus highlights in the photo. This is because the in-focus elements actually pass through the very pinhole centre of the lens. The out-of-focus elements pass through more of the outer regions of the lens where the aperture or bokeh hood can impact their shape.
A good starting point is a 50mm or longer lens, because wider angle lenses don’t work as well. Remember that as this is a really experimental technique you may need to try a few different lenses until you find one that works for you.
The bokeh hood really cuts down the amount of light entering your camera so increasing your ISO to 800 or more really helps. Because the hood is so close to the lens any small movement can create blur. A tripod is good to use and the in-camera self-timer mode also helps avoid camera shake. Set your camera to AV (aperture value) or M (manual) and shoot on your largest aperture value, which is the smallest f-stop number.
Manual focus helps the camera avoid confusion when the bokeh hood is right in front of it. Then carefully tear back the tabs of the bokeh hood just enough to loosen it to neatly fit over the lens diameter. Wrap the tabs around the lens and secure it with an elastic band. Ensure the hood is flush against the front of the lens and the cutout shape is right in the centre. It doesn't matter how you secure it, so long as you remember those two things. On some lenses you may need to squeeze the bokeh hood to physically grip the lens to be out of focus.
To further explore the bokeh technique, simply cut out any shape from a bit of non-reflective paper or card. Then first test your skills at night – start by composing traffic, city or Christmas lights then add a background focus and you’ll be able to see the effect when you're looking through the camera's eyepiece before you even take the shot. Try adding in an in-focus foreground element. If you’re not happy with your results, try a larger shape or a smaller angle lens. The images that bokeh produces are very rewarding so keep experimenting.
Thinking of Stepping up to a Full Frame camera? Learn more about the Advantages of Canon Full Frame bodies with this article from Matt Vandeputte.
On Monday 14 November, we’ll get to enjoy the brightest, closest ‘supermoon’ since 1948. And it won’t be back until 2034, so grab your cameras and let’s get shooting!
Quick ways to make some statement artwork for your master bedroom
Easy ways to use print to style and organise your home
Create a party photo booth with Creative Park
Learn how to shoot amazing lifestyle stock photography with these tips from Getty Images.
Stylist Jason Grant gives you some inspiration for your baby's room.
Discover easy ways to bring creativity into your home office space
Canon Collective Ambassador Jay Collier has been working as a wildlife photographer in Africa since 2004. In this insightful guide Jay shares his favourite photography locations in Madagascar, along with advice on how to master the art of wildlife photography. Learn all about the 'Great Red Island' and its abundance of rare and beautifully bizarre wildlife.
Canon Collective Ambassador Greg Sullavan shares his pro tips on photographing birds in action, with recommended cameras, lenses, settings and techniques.
Get creative with your Canon CP1300 Selphy photo printer. Pro tips and ideas from Blueberry Co. founder and designer Chloe Watts.