Teresa Pilcher Photography

The Beauty of Bokeh

“Never be so focused on what you’re looking for, that you overlook the thing you actually find.” ― Ann Patchett

When I first saw the beauty of Bokeh in films and photography, I wanted to know how to recreate this magic in my camera. Bokeh is pronounced “B0-Ke” two syllables (Bo as in Bow and Ke as in Kettle but clipped short.)

Bokeh is simply the aesthetic quality of the blur, produced by a lens, in the out-of-focus parts of an image. Bokeh can be seen as points of light which translates into circles of various sizes, slightly out of focus or as a soft flat backdrop. Bokeh can be used to separate the subject from the background or be purely decorative. The word comes from the Japanese language, Boke in Japanese, literally translates as Blur or Haze. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field, so when focusing on the subject with a large aperture, we create images with a soft foreground/backdrop.

Bokeh can be produced by shooting with a standard 50mm lens with a wide aperture, (Low f-stop number, f2 works well) or with a telephoto lens which will capture very little detail in the background. So using different camera lenses will produce very different effects, a wide-angle lens will have a lot more detail for example than a telephoto lens. It is argued there is good Bokeh and bad Bokeh, generally it is just whether it is pleasing or not.  Personally I like the Circles of light created by the diaphragm of the camera, but this is just my individual taste.

This image was taken next to the fountain that was overflowing onto the pavement, after a week of waiting for rain, I decided to make my own luck. It is interesting to note that the light display of the Eiffel Tower is copyrighted, so I can sell an image as Fine Art, but not commercially or I may be challenged by the French Government if this image were to turn up on a box of cereal for example.

In this image, there is very little in focus so it becomes quite impressionistic, I liked the suggestion of the subject and the colours of the backdrop on the pavement. I could say the French painters and artists that came before me were my inspiration, but it was really just the moment and the light that inspired this image.

This final image was experimental. I had tried this effect during the day and liked the result, but wanted to try it at night. The mirror on a moped or scooter was used to create one sharp image and the street around it is a soft frame. In this image I wanted to push the boundaries, the camera struggled, but I did get a focal point and waited for my subjects to arrive. In most of my images the Bokeh is not an intentional decision, but an effect that I enjoy and adds to the mood of these images.  All images were taken on my Sony A7 camera with my 55mm 1.8 lens.


What is your favourite lens for Bokeh and have you shot any abstract images in this theme?

Teresa Pilcher

Teresa Pilcher Photography A Blog on Street Photography

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