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Bokeh effect in photography

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

In photography, bokeh is defined as the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image. Many photographers like bokeh due to its visually enjoyable qualities.

Bokeh provides a blurry background that draws viewers' attention to the subject. It also creates photos that look interesting and eye-catching.

To achieve the best result of bokeh your background should have some texture, for example, light reflecting off the trees in a garden (the first image above where light is hitting the branches). Small gaps, such as through the spaces between trees will add additional effect.

From a technical point of view, shutter speed has no direct influence on the depth of field. It's primarily affected by aperture, focal length and also by distance from the subject.

What You Need To Shoot Bokeh festive photo

The right lens

Some people struggle with the bokeh effect because they use the wrong lens. You can achieve the best results with a lens that has an aperture of at least f/2.8. I'm aware that beginners a likely to have a typical kit lens which only goes as low as f/3.5 and sadly it’s not wide enough to provide a beautiful bokeh effect. My advice is to invest in a nifty-fifty, which is a universal lens for most of the food photography and beyond. A 50mm lens is relatively cheap, it’s easy to find, and its aperture opens up to f/1.8 or f/1.4. If you don't have it yet and you're thinking about an additional lens, go for a macro lens, which is perfect not only to achieve an amazing bokeh effect in your photography but perfect for close-ups or drinks photography too.

(photo on the left 50mm lens with long distance from the subject, photo on the right 105mm lens, closer to the subject)

Textured background

To achieve beautiful bokeh don't forget to choose the right background. You can always edit your image in the post-production process, however, it doesn’t guarantee that your image will have a good bokeh.

A Christmas tree decorated with fairy lights is the absolute best background for Christmas photos. All the lights and baubles reflecting the light automatically create a bokeh effect.

Interesting foreground

When we think about a photo with a bokeh effect very often we imagine a photo with a blurry background. Nothing is more wrong, the term applies to the foreground as well.

What I do very often is use string lights to create foreground bokeh (3rd photo above). Once you adjust the focus on your subject in the middle, everything in front (string light) and behind it will be blurry. Watch my behind the scene how did I create it here.

Create a distance between the subject and the background

To maximize the bokeh effect you should keep a distance between your subject and the background. Obviously, the further you’re from the object you're photographing, the better bokeh effect you'll achieve.

If you’re using a lens with a short focal length (for example 50-70mm, photo on the left), it will be better to stay closer to the subject to create a more distinct bokeh. However, if you’re using a macro lens (such as 85mm or longer, photo on the right), stepping away from the object you're photographing usually won't change much, that's the benefit of shooting with the lens’ long focal length.

Just remember that no matter what lens you use, it’s better to keep your subject far from the background.

In fact, you’re already exploring the bokeh effect whenever you start experimenting with your camera’s depth of field. It doesn't matter if you use your kit lens or macro lens you will see some bokeh when you take photos. Of course, you will achieve a different effect, but it will show you how the principle works.

Achieving bokeh is easier than you think. Don’t worry too much about the technical aspects of this effect. Just grab your camera and by controlling your DOF create a beautiful scene with mesmerizing bokeh effect.

I hope all the tips and hints will help you improve not only festive photography but also your day-to-day work. Can't wait to see your creations.


If you have any questions or struggle with any subject, send me a DM on my Instagram or email me. I will do my best to answer and help.


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