“Ooh! LOVE the bokeh!” “That bokeh is just magical!” “Beautiful bokeh!”
How many times have you encountered comments like those while browsing photos on Flickr? If you have no idea what *bokeh* is, or have a vague idea but aren’t sure, you’re probably not alone. I was pretty confused about the whole thing until I did some research recently, and actually, I’m still confused.
So what did I find out? Well, most simply put, bokeh is the Japanese word for “fuzzy,” and it refers to the aesthetically pleasing out-of-focus areas of a photo, often achieved with a wide aperture or a telephoto lens. I have to admit that terms like “spherical aberration” and “circle of confusion” make my eyes glaze over, so I won’t get into the technicalities here. Besides, I’m sure you all have some mad googling skillz.
From what I’m able to gather, there are different types of bokeh. There’s the creamy, smooth and silky kind that looks like you wiped that portion of the photo with a sponge. Then there’s the kind of bokeh that shows the shape of the aperture–round for a large aperture that’s wide open, polygonal for an aperture that’s stopped down a couple stops, or even in different shapes if you want to get crafty with paper and scissors. And while there may be a general consensus as to what is and isn’t considered good bokeh, I think it’s pretty subjective.
Now, I’ve seen some really lovely bokeh in the Shutter Sisters’ pool, so I know we’ve got a bunch of bokeh enthusiasts in our midst. Bokeh apparently has its own day of the week, not to mention numerous groups on Flickr. If you have a tip for getting really cool bokeh or have some favorite bokeh photos of your own, please share, and tag your photos with the word “bokeh” and submit them to the Shutter Sisters Flickr pool so we can enjoy all the bokeh glory in slideshow format.
P.S. I got the heart bokeh in the photo for this post by cutting out a heart in a circular piece of cardstock (you want it thick enough to block light, so black would probably work best) that would fit in the front of my 50mm f/1.8 lens (which was the perfect lens for this experiment as the glass part of the lens is set far into the lens body). I suppose you could do the whole lens hood method, but, eh, I was happy enough with the results I got. A tip for cutting out hearts: if you are a scrapbooker, you already know what to do. If you are not, you can run out and buy (or borrow) a heart-shaped hole-puncher-thingie, or you can do what I did. I took a simple hand-held hole puncher, punched out two circles that were conjoined to create the bosom of the heart, and took sharp scissors to make the pointy bottom of the heart.