Less is sometimes more. This is especially true for photos with busy backgrounds. With the help of the bokeh effect, an overloaded image can be transformed into an elegant production. TECHBOOK reveals what you should consider when taking photos.
If you use the bokeh effect in a photo, you are working with the background sharpness, or rather blur. If the background is blurred, the actual subject stands out more clearly. This is often used for portraits, close-up or macro shots – especially if the background is not particularly photogenic. The effect can now be achieved not only when taking photos with a camera, but also with a smartphone and even in subsequent editing.
Use bokeh to direct the viewer’s gaze
The word bokeh comes from Japanese and means blurred or foggy. For the bokeh effect you need a fast lens because the blur only occurs when the aperture is open. When the aperture is open, the image details behind the image focus become blurred.
As a photographer, you can use the bokeh effect to sharply reproduce those areas of the image that should attract the viewer’s attention. After all, people instinctively always look for the sharp parts of the image first, which are brought into focus by the bokeh effect.
Bokeh effect with camera
For the bokeh effect, a camera lens with a light intensity of at least 1:2.8 is required. The higher the light intensity, for example 1:2 or 1:1.8, the better for using the bokeh effect. Ultimately, the nature of the aperture also plays a role. If it consists of round slats, it creates soft circles with blurred light in the picture – like the title picture. A more angular aperture, on the other hand, creates a slightly angular appearance of out-of-focus highlights.
To achieve bokeh, the aperture must be wide open. The best way to do this is to use the camera’s manual exposure control. You choose the opening of the aperture and the exposure time yourself. You can also use aperture priority, in which the aperture is also set manually and the camera automatically selects the optimal exposure time for this setting.
Even with a weak lens you can still achieve a bokeh effect. To do this, you need to increase the distance between the background and the image focus by moving the camera closer to the subject. The further away the background is, the blurrier it will be in the image.
Bokeh effect on smartphone
Many smartphones can now create a natural bokeh effect thanks to increasingly larger sensors and better optics. However, manufacturers usually resort to a software-based solution called “portrait mode”. If the camera detects one or more faces or objects, it automatically simulates blur in the background.
However, unlike natural bokeh, this solution is not perfect because the smartphone does not really separate the foreground and background. However, the software solution is more flexible. The strength of the effect can usually be adjusted manually. Google’s Pixel smartphones and now the iPhone 15 also allow you to change focus and depth of field even when a normal photo has been taken.
There are also numerous apps in which the bokeh effect can be added later, such as Snapseed. But you can also create beautiful accents using soft focus and bokeh lights using common image editing programs such as Adobe and Gimp.
If you don’t want to resort to software tricks, you can use a simple trick with your smartphone camera to achieve a similar effect. Most newer smartphones automatically blur the image when you place an object very close to the lens. If you now focus on the subject in the foreground, the background becomes blurred. On the other hand, if you focus on the background or middle ground, the foreground becomes blurred. If you get within a few centimeters of the subject to achieve this effect, you may be able to achieve even better results in macro mode.