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Early on in my pursuit of digital photography, I noticed other photographers had really beautiful "blurry" backgrounds (and sometime foregrounds) in their images. I wondered (and wondered, and wondered) how they were getting that gorgeous "blur".
In post processing, I would shoot with my kit lens (18-55mm f5.6) and then use a blur filter to try to achieve the same results. In time, I learned that the beautiful out of focus backgrounds I was looking for were actually called Bokeh and simply blurring in post processing would never achieve the same results.
What is Bokeh?
Bokeh is the way your lens renders out-of-focus points of light.
What Is Blur?
Simple Blur can occur in many different ways. Motion Blur occurs when an object is moving at any distance away from the lens and the shutter speed does not compensate to capture the object in focus. Other types of blur can be caused by camera shake, zoom, and other human errors. For the purposes of this article, we want to explore the kind of blur that is created in post processing by using a Gaussian Blur Filter, and how it does not equate to bokeh.
The visual difference between Bokeh and Blur?
How Do I Achieve Bokeh In My Images?
There are few ways to achieve beautiful bokeh in your image. My greatest advice is not to use your kit lens. Bokeh is achieved by narrowing your field of focus and opening up your aperture. The widest aperture on a kit lens is typically somewhere around 5.6. Unless you are getting very close to your subject with a kit lens, it isn't going to happen. You should instead, be on the lookout for a lens with a wide aperture. Keywords to look for would be f 1.4, f 1.2, f 1.8. Even at a reasonable distance you will achieve a beautiful bokeh and bring the focus to your subject. I have laid out some product recommendations at the end of this post.
My Own Out-Of-Focus Photography
Incidentally, in the last couple of years I have fallen in love with out of focus photography. The painting-like quality is captivating to me. This is one of my prints. On top, I have used a texture that is currently in testing. It will be one of several that we (MLC) are hoping to release this spring. The texture I used gives it a beautiful canvas quality.
Wide Aperture Lens Recommendations
I have heard from many of my photography friends that they notice much sharper images with their widest aperture lenses. I personally use the Canon 85mm 1.8 as my every day lens, and I did order it from Amazon as I do all of my equipment, even my Canon 5d Mark iii. I love them since they are one of the few companies that will ship to me when I am overseas.
Disclosure: Please note that some on this page may be affiliate links and MLC may earn a commission if you purchase through those links. It is important to note that I only post products that I personally would purchase from companies that I trust. Any reviews of products are based on my honest opinion.