Photographic Innoventions: Bokeh!

No, it’s not the name of a new ballroom dance craze. Bokeh is used to describe a certain camera lens characteristic. Bokeh comes from the Japanese word “boke” which means fuzzy. Sounds like a strange characteristic for a lens to have, doesn’t it? Bokeh describes how the background looks when shooting with the lens at it’s largest aperture. A lens with “good bokeh” has a nice smooth looking but out of focus (or fuzzy) background. Lenses with “bad bokeh” have spherical or other geometrical shapes with hard edges which look bad behind a sharply focused subject in the foreground.

The picture below shows what “good bokeh” looks like. The foliage behind the tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek is softly out of focus and does not take away from the handsome portrait. You will find when taking someone’s portrait, this is the best way to separate them from the background. In my previous entry on the Creative Uses of Aperture, you can see another example of what good bokeh looks like.

Tiger on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. © Scott Thomas Photography 2008
Nikon D70/80-200D, 1/125s, f/5.6, 400 ISO, +0.3 EV, 200mm focal length

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Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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