How to Bokeh

How to bokeh. It sounds like a dance move, doesn’t it? Let’s bokeh! Everybody bokeh now! And it is indeed fun to do. So what is it and more importantly how do you create bokeh? Bokeh is a photography term used to describe the blurry background created when the camera lens creates a shallow depth of field. It’s especially fun to try this with your DSLR camera at Christmas time in front of the tree to create some Christmas bokeh. I’m not the best photographer, but I’m getting better thanks to the help of Shoot Fly Shoot. More on that in a bit!

Below is my first attempt at bokeh. How much bokeh to go for is totally in the eye of the beholder. I wasn’t happy with this first attempt. It’s okay, but it’s not great. The paperwhites aren’t as crisp as I’d like and the bokeh is pretty, but I wanted something with more of a “wow” factor. I took this photo with my “everyday” lens which only goes down to a 3.5 aperture. To get the bokeh that I really wanted I needed to switch to my 50mm lens which goes down to a 1.8 aperture.
paperwhites bokeh

Okay, now I have my 50mm lens on my camera, and I set my aperture to 2.8, my ISO to 400, and my shutter speed to 1/15. Does that just sound like a bunch of gobbly gook to you? Awhile ago, it did to me as well! The Shoot Fly Shoot videos broke it all down for me in baby-terms that I needed to understand. So below you can see that I am able to really zoom in on the flowers and tell my camera to only focus on the front flowers and keep everything in the background blurry. I like this shot much better, so decide that my camera settings are good and now it’s just a matter of taking more pictures and seeing which ones I like best!

christmas bokeh

I really like the next picture, Do you see how the front two paperwhites are sharply in focus and the ones directly behind them are not? That is bokeh baby!

bokeh

My 50mm lens unfortunately isn’t autofocus, so I’m not always the best at getting it perfectly in focus the first try. This next shot turned out great though. I love how crisp the little star flowers look up against the Christmas tree lights.
paperwhites

And I’ll end with this magical photo. So fun to play around with my camera and experiment with the settings in a way that is actually meaningful and makes sense to me!

bokeh paperwhitesIf you want to learn more about how to create bokeh and just how to use your camera in manual mode, I highly recommend Shoot Fly Shoot classes. I have read my photography manual and even have a great photography book that I received for Christmas last year, but I’m a visual learner and learn best when I can see someone showing me how to change the settings. The video series is so helpful in showing you step-by-step how to use you camera. Buy yourself an early Christmas gift and take better photos this season! I promise you won’t regret it. I know that I haven’t.

Shoot Fly Shoot


Comments

  1. says

    oh last tip! The blur might not be because of your autofocus. Your shutter speed is very very slow (under 1/50s). Too slow to be hand held, unless you’re using a tripod. Fun fun!

    • Beth says

      Thanks for the awesome tips Mindy! I didn’t feel like hauling out my tripod for playing around but you’re so right.

  2. says

    SO PRETTY! I love the “fun” photos. These turned out wonderful Beth. I just got a new camera and I can’t wait to really play with it. I got two lenses, but still need to order a 50mm.

    Have a wonderful holiday with your boys. It’s extra fun when they are still little :)
    Merry Christmas ~ Shannon

  3. Laura says

    Beautiful. I tried Shoot Fly Shoot based on your recommendation before and I loved it. It was so helpful and finally cleared up a mistake I’ve been making since high school. I took photography in school and took a class from a photographer a few years ago, but this was hands-down the more useful thing I’ve learned. I hope someday they do a class specifically geared towards shooting kids.

  4. Laura says

    Beautiful. I tried Shoot Fly Shoot based on your recommendation before and I loved it. It was so helpful and finally cleared up a mistake I’ve been making since high school. I took photography in school and took a class from a photographer a few years ago, but this was hands-down the more useful thing I’ve learned. I hope someday they do a class specifically geared towards photographing kids.

  5. says

    Learning to take good pictures for my blog has been the bane of my existence for years! I recently took a class, but I’m still a scaredy cat when it comes to manual. Thanks for the recommendation. You really seem to have found some confidence, good for you! Beautiful shots!

    Kathleen
    Charm Bracelet Diva {at Home}

    • Beth says

      Ugh. I hear ya girl! I’m slowly learning and I can definitely see my photography improving which is exciting! If you haven’t tried Shoot Fly Shoot it is awesome. I’ve taken photog classes at conferences, and I’ve read and re-read my manual and learned tiny bits and pieces but my brain always shuts down with all those numbers. This class is a video series that breaks everything down topically video by video and takes you through things with tiny baby-steps (which is what I needed). I had to watch the aperture video a few times to really understand it. I’m finally at the point where I can shoot in manual mode all the time and get pretty decent pics in my low-light home.

  6. says

    I love Shoot fly shoot. Took the class when it first came out and I go back and watch it over and over…well worth the money. That’s where I learned the term “bokeh”

  7. says

    Beth…I will soon become addicted to bokeh. When I get my new camera,that is! Thanks for the tips. I will file them in my photography bookmarks for when I’m ready to begin!

  8. says

    Beautiful job, Beth! I’ve tried. I’ve taken the classes but haven’t mastered it yet. Hoping I’m not a lost cause!

    Merry Christmas!