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Some creative Ideas to include Bokeh in your Photographs !

We see bokeh in our everyday life. We don't quite "see" it with our naked eye because the pupil of our eye is constantly adjusting the size as it "scans" through different elements in a scene. However, the camera only focuses at a particular distance with the lens being used. When you click images with the closed aperture, the background also appears to be sharp. Not as sharp as the distance which has been focused at but quite sharp enough to be said that everything in the photograph appears sharp and is being covered by the Depth of field. This is because of the "Circles of Confusion". In simple words the points representing the original scene which was not focused at appear as dots corresponding to the aperture size. In the case of a small aperture these "dots" do not overlap much. However, in the case of a large opened Aperture the dots not only are formed at one point but every dot, since its quite large, overlaps its neighboring dot as well. This is the reason for the area which has not been focused on to appear out of focus. These "Dots" overlap less when shooting with a narrow Aperture and overlap more when shooting with a "wide open" Aperture.

Include the Traffic in your Photos

Shoot at a spot where the rear or front lights or even both are visible in the background. Ensure that these are at a distance, which will obviously be the case if you are on a Bridge or a far-off area away from the traffic.

Besides keeping the Aperture wide open, it's also important to keep a relatively higher shutter speed to ensure that these lights do not turn out to be streaks of light due to the slow shutter speed. If shooting at a higher shutter speed is not really possible, you can shoot at the time when the vehicles are slow or have stopped at the traffic light signal.


Photo by Josh Hild

Firecrackers in the sky are anyways far off as compared to the subject you are photographing. Just that these are there in the sky only during the festivals and you have to be very fast in composing and clicking your images as you do not where exactly the firecrackers may explode in the sky. So you need to be ready to click, the moment you see one as they won't last too long in the sky.

Outdoor Sunlight

When you shoot against the light but it comes filtered through the foliage of the trees, it kind appears to come from multiple light sources. These when present in the out-of-focus background created by an open aperture, form multiple Bokeh. Remember, Point light sources in the distant background along with opened Aperture are prerequisites to have this effect.

Fairy Lights

Fairy lights are very simple battery-operated lights that can be used both in the foreground and the background quite effectively.

Illuminate the Subject as well.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

In the absence of any illumination on the subject, the photographer chose to use the light of the mobile phone she is holding in her hand. Alternatively, you can use and balance the Image exposure with Flashlight on or off the Camera.

To pronounce the Bokeh effect of light, the ambient light was slightly underexposed and the subject was compensated by the Flash light.

Photographs by Munish Khanna

Why not create a silhouette instead!

Most of the time, if you do not use external lights or do not have them at hand, this is the default situation if there is not enough ambient light illumination around. In this situation, you must ensure that the figure you are photographing has a distinguishable outline and form. Also, ensure that it overlaps against a bright background filled up with enough "Bokeh". You can do so by simply repositioning yourself so that you have the desired effect. It may be a bit difficult to focus in such circumstances. One option is to focus on the edge of the figure being photographed. It's easier for the camera to focus as it sees the contrast. On the subject, since it's dark, the camera won't be able to focus on its own unless you put some temporary light, like the one from your mobile phone torch.

Better-quality lenses will be relatively better at their performance in focusing.

Shoot through Reflections

These are typical situations when you shoot through glass windows facing a busy street or a cityscape. Watch out for your own reflections in the glass which will be visible if there is any light falling on you. Positioning yourself at an angle can help.

Explore having the Lights in the foreground instead.

When the lights are closer to the camera, an equally interesting effect is created. Of course you can have the lights both in the foreground and the background. The depth of field is more behind the subject as compared to the front. Bokeh effect is much more pronounced when the lights are closer to the lens as these are relatively more out of focus in comparison to the ones which are behind the subject.

Try Simple Objects

You don't have to include the out-of-focus highlights in the background of your portraits but try it out against some simple elements or situations. Not to forget that the closer you are to the subject you are photographing more out of focus will be the background. In the case of macro photography, you are anyways very close to the subject and far off from anyway in the background.

Get Closer

When you get closer to the subject, the distance between the camera and the subject becomes less and in relative terms, the background gets further away. For example, if you are 5 feet away from the subject and the background is 10 feet away, it is twice the distance away. But if you bring the subject 1 foot away from the camera, the same background will now be 10 times away and thus as much more out of focus.

Mix rain and Bokeh

Shooting through the window of your room overlooking the lights or through the windscreen of your car makes an interesting photograph. Even otherwise, due to limited light, you end up opening the aperture to the max so as to get a higher shutter speed. This helps create the Bokeh effect as well.

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