Bokeh background portrait of Joell at Pike Place Market, Seattle


One of our photographer friends loves deep focus. He doesn’t like shallow focus images.

But wouldn’t you sometimes want to focus just on the subject and want to blur the background? You might even want to blur parts of the subject in a composition? It is difficult to focus everything and express it as art, isn’t it? So I tend to take an easy way.

So, what do you to blur the background or create bokeh? Bokeh comes from boke in Japanese, meaning blur.

1. Aperture

An f-stop of 2.8 or lower is great for bokeh. But Just in case your lens doesn’t have 2.8 or lower f-stop, I selected f/4.5 for these tests below (fig.1,2,3,4).

FL 48mm, f/4.5

fig.1 ) FL 48mm, f/4.5

2. Focal Length

Remember, I wrote in “Telephoto Zoom Lens”: The longer the focal length, a subject becomes larger, but it covers less area. (narrow angle area)

So here is the image of zoomed in 70 mm taken from the same place as fig 1. The books in back are more blured than the in fig. 1. ( f-stop is the same @ 4.5).

FL 70mm, f/4.5

fig.2) FL 70mm, f/4.5

If your lens doesn’t zoom to 70 mm or more,  bring the subject toward you (fig. 3) or you get closer to the subject (fig. 4).

3. More distance between subject and background


FL 48mm, f/4.5, More distance between the king and background books

fig.3) FL 48mm, f/4.5,
More distance between the king and background books

4. Get closer to the subject

FL 48mm, f/4.5, I get I got closer to the subject

fig.4) FL 48 mm, f/4.5, I got closer to the subject




I set all of these shots with Manual Mode (M), but I could have set Aperture Priority (A or Av) since they are all the same f-stop. A or Av keeps the f-stop constant.

For this last image below (fig. 5), I got closer to the subject and used f/2.8 to make the pieces of chess in the background to create the most bokeh.

FL 58mm, f/2.8

fig.5) FL 58 mm, f/2.8