Teach your child to use Bokeh

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is the beautiful blur in a picture.  It can be used to get rid of a distracting background or just to add some interesting light shapes.  In the picture below a cluttered background was blurred out so that we can focus on the main subject.

"Faces at the Pow Wow" by Tony Alter CC BY 2.0

“Faces at the Pow Wow” by Tony Alter CC BY 2.0

The circles of light in the photo of the man below can also be described as bokeh.  I have removed the bokeh in the second picture.  Which version do you like better?

denisdenis - the real spank - cc by 2.0

“The Real Spank” by Denis Denis CC BY 2.0

 

denisdenis - the real spank - cc by 2.0 edited

“The Real Spank” by Denis Denis CC BY 2.0 Background removed

Step 1 – Use the right lens

To easily blur out a background you need to use a lens with a low aperture number.  Look for a lens with f/2.8 or lower.  Don’t worry if you only have one lens to choose from.  You can still create bokeh in your pictures.  Many photographers will use a prime lens with a very low aperture number such as f/1.8 or even f/1.4.

A “prime” lens is a lens that does not zoom.  It is fixed at one focal length.  A popular prime lens is a 50mm that goes to a very wide aperture of f/1.7 or f/1.8.  You can typically find these lenses for less than $150 for most DSLR cameras.

Step 2 – Use the lowest aperture number available on your lens

Set your camera to Aperture Priority (A) mode.  This allows you to set the aperture while the camera sets the shutter speed for you.  Set your aperture to the lowest number available.  Hopefully your lens can go to f/2.8 or even lower.

If your lens can only go down to f/4 or f/5.6 then step 3 and 4 become way more important.

"Buho" by Juanedc.com CC BY 2.0

“Buho” by Juanedc.com CC BY 2.0

Remember a low aperture number means the hole that lets in light is very wide. A large aperture number means the hole is small.

Shutter_Open_512 (1)

f/2.8

Shutter_Closed_512

f/16

Step 3 – Place your subject far away from the background

Step 4 – Get close to your subject

Notice in the diagram below that the camera is close to the subject but the background is far away.  This will help you achieve a nice bokeh.

bokeh diagram

Additional tip:

If you have done everything above and are still having trouble blurring out the background, try using a longer lens. Switch to a 200mm or even 300mm lens.  If your camera has a zoom function, zoom all the way in.

A longer lens will help you achieve bokeh.

piotr p - paulinka - cc by 2.0

“Paulinka” by Piotr P CC BY 2.0

Review:

  • Use the right lens (Pick one with the lowest aperture number)
  • Set your camera to the lowest aperture number available on your lens
  • Place your subject far away from the background
  • Get close to your subject
  • Use a longer lens or zoom in if you are having trouble


 

Share Your Thoughts:  What photo techniques do your kids want to learn next?

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