About Photography Wednesday - again

In the last few years there is a term that seems to have come into general use in Photography - Bokeh. Rumor has it that it is an Englishification (it is too a word) of a Japanese term for blur - 'boke'. The 'h' was added so that English speakers would not pronounce it to rhyme with 'broke' - it sounds more like 'bouquet'. Anyway.

Bokeh is a term that gets misused a lot - so here is the definition from Wikipedia to set it straight: In photography, bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light." Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting— "good" or "bad" bokeh, respectively. ....
Bokeh is often most visible around small background highlights, such as specular reflections and light sources, which is why it is often associated with such areas. However, bokeh is not limited to highlights, as blur occurs in all out-of-focus regions of the image.
(Edited by me for content and appearance)

MOST lenses, when shot wide open, will produce shots with 'acceptable' bokeh, but the appearance of the out of focus elements in a photograph is always subjective - and what may be pleasing to one person may not, in fact, be pleasing to others. However, to most eyes, out of focus specular highlights rendered as small circles are usually much more pleasant than those same elements would be if they had apparent edges or corners.

There are many elements of a lens and the way it's constructed that have the potential to affect bokeh, so when buying a lens for your camera, test shoot first, and see what wide open photos look like. Of course, that's easier with Digital than film, but less and less film is being shot nowadays, and fewer film cameras are being purchased, so i guess I'm really directing my comments at those shooting digital. If you're buying a lens from a reputable store, more than likely they'll allow you to shoot the lens anyway. If they don't want to let you shoot the lens - then caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. Me, personally, I won't buy a lens I can't shoot - and I don't care if I happen to be buying the lens from a boutique camera shop or Best Buy. And by the same token, it's why I don't buy lenses online.

But that's just me. I'm weird that way.



Mishi said...

Yeah, I have to play with a lens before I buy it, too. I rent them and then play for a whole week!

Except the 50mm.. didn't play with that at all, just bought.

moosh in indy. said...

I'm with Mishi.

Except that when I bought my 50 I ran around the store taking pictures of every single little thing because I could and it was AMAZING.

I may get a tattoo that reads 50mm4eva.

Wait. What? said...

I know who to go to for advice now when I begin looking for my new camera in December!

Gretchen said...

Very interesting perspective Lou. I have about zero photography experience, and so therefore sub-zero chance of ever capturing bokeh. But it's all good info.

I have this one picture, I wonder, would you look at it and tell me if you think there is bokeh in the background. You won't hurt my feelings if you say there isn't any. I'm just THAT much of a novice that I can't tell.


Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

You're not weird, hon. :) Try before you buy. That's why I don't ever buy scuba gear online.

Interesting post - I learned something new!

Unknown said...

I think that is so wise.
I love bokeh.
Love it. Love it. Love it.
I am going to try to shoot something and get bokeh intentionally tomorrow. You inspired me.

Jientje said...

Shoes and lenses, never buy them without trying them (on) first!

~L said...

Hey Lou, you have now become one of my photog resources. How long have you been shooting?

I accidentally boked and my friend told me what I had done...now I try to bokeh and experiment with my likes...yes, it's subjective. See my most recent blog post for some examples:


also, I wonder if you could write me with an explanation of the 100 word challenge...I'm shy about writing competitively, but I need to practice.

thanks friend, no rush on all of my demands!