Bokeh Thoughts about bokeh.

This article is very full subjective opinions. Be patient and understanding.

Bokeh Thoughts from Radozhiva

Bokeh Thoughts from Radozhiva

Bokeh is the “character” of an image outside the focus area, its intensity, and its effect on the overall image. Roughly speaking, this is how blurry the image out of focus area. The term "blurry" is not entirely technical, but as much as possible to describe what happens to the image outside the focus area. The image is “blurred” as if the artist took and mixed colors.

Bokeh It is like that.

Bokeh It is like that. My watch for photo tests.

When focusing, the camera sharpens only those objects that the lens focused on. All other objects in the frame are not sharp. Moreover, objects can be very highly blurred, or blurred just a little bit. Usually, the image clearly shows the area in which the objects are sharp. Such a zone can be measured in width (depth).

Bokeh Example.

Bokeh. Example. Notice the “papery” crumpled pattern in the upper left corner.

For the width of this zone is responsible DOF lens - Гlubina Рkeenly Иimaged Пrostranstva. English equivalent of DOF. Bokeh is directly related to the blur zone, which is the back of the depth of field. Therefore, influencing the depth of field, you can objectively affect the bokeh.

Depth of field

Depth of field. DOF. DOF.

The following parameters are responsible for the intensity (strength) of the blur (bokeh):

  1. Focal length of the lens... The longer the focal length of the lens, the easier it is to blur the background and increase the degree of blur.
  2. Aperture lens. The larger the relative aperture (the smaller the F number), the easier it is to achieve strong blurring of the image in the non-sharpen area and increase the blur circles outside the depth of field.
  3. Aperture View. Typically, when closing, the diaphragm cannot remain as round as when fully open. This is due to the limited number of aperture blades. With closed apertures, instead of discs (circles, circles), polygonal figures appear in the blur zone.
  4. Focus distance... The closer the focuser position is to the MDF (minimum focusing distance), the stronger the blur will be. Therefore, even with a “dark” lens, you can get good blur by shooting close-ups when the lens is in focus as close as possible. Conduct an experiment, take your whale lens (or any other), turn off autofocus, set the MDF and try to take off any little thing, for example, a flowerpot, a cup of tea. Then look at the out-of-focus area, it will be very blurry.
  5. Optical circuit lensa, which, in fact, forms an unusual pattern for each lens separately. Personally, I consider a good optical circuit with nice bokeh, a Sonnar circuit. But now it’s just a sea of ​​other good lenses with incomprehensible multi-lens designs and nice bokeh. Optical design of some lenses, such as Nikon AF DC-Nikkor 105mm 1: 2 D Defocus Image ControlIt has a special ring for bokeh control.
  6. Indirectly affects matrix size. Simply, with the same lens for the same composition (frame composition) with a different matrix size, there will be a different focusing distance, therefore, the intensity of the blur is higher. More details in the section on Crop factor.
  7. Background and foreground. It is very important that there is an understanding that the blur pattern depends on what will blur. Bright single light sources usually turn into luminous discs, and a uniform background into soft plastic porridge.
Creamy soft bokeh

Creamy soft bokeh

You can, of course, still use soft filters, gradient, point filters for blurring.

Objectively, you can only talk about discs in the blur zone, their size, type, shape. I call these discs “rounds”. The discs have a peculiarity - a transition from a light inside to a darker outside. Bokeh in which discs have a small border width are commonly referred to as “fish scales”.

The disc is in a blur zone. 200mm, F4.5. Not a crop.

The disc is in a blur zone. 200mm, F4.5. Not a crop.

The shape of the light spot (disk) depends very much on the shape of the diaphragm. At maximum aperture, almost all prime lenses have a smooth aperture hole. When you close the diaphragm, its blades form all kinds of patterns. The most common are nuts circular saws, rectangles, squares. You can make the form yourself. Below is a snapshot of the usual 7 coal nuts.

Nuts in the bokeh

Nuts in the bokeh. 7 angles.

What types of bokeh are there?

Usually, Western literature distinguishes two types of bokeh: hollywood (Hollywood Style Bokeh) and cream bokeh (Creamcheese Bokeh). I almost never saw divisions into these two types in the CIS, but I adhere to such a simple gradation.

Hollywood bokeh with discs (circles) in the blur zone

Bokeh with discs (circles) in the blur zone

Hollywood Bokeh - bokeh, in which glowing circles (disks) are pronounced in the out-of-focus area. Moreover, it may not be circles, but rectangles, stars, everything, anything... Why Hollywood? Because in Hollywood films, a lot of evening and night scenes are shot in this bokeh style. For example, in the movie Die Hard at 01:05:00 and throughout the movie, the blur discs have a very elongated vertical ellipsoidal shape. In general, just go to the cinema and observe the blur zone, you will find a lot of useful conclusions for yourself.

An example of ordinary Hollywood bokeh

An example of ordinary Hollywood bokeh. Shot on Nikon 50mm F1.8D AF.

Cream bokeh - unlike the Hollywood one, it is designed to make the blur with a real “blurry” method, without a variety of bright rounds. In this case, the blur becomes like a cream in consistency. I always think of sweet eclairs when I think of creamy bokeh. Creamy bokeh is difficult to achieve, because all the points in the out-of-focus area try to turn into glowing discs in the image. Units of lenses can produce true creamy bokeh. Actually, an example of such a bokeh is below.

Cream bokeh example.

Cream bokeh example.

In its pure form, creamy bokeh is very difficult to meet, mainly all photos with pronounced bokeh have a Hollywood or mixed style.

Bokeh without treatment with MDF. Weak guess at what fifty dollars filmed?

Bokeh without treatment with MDF. Weak guess at what fifty dollars filmed?

Doubling, tripling of lines

Very often, you can come across opinions of the type "image troit, double". This means that the bokeh has an unnatural appearance, in which parts of the objects in the out-of-focus area bifurcate. This can be quite dangerous, for example, when a person's blurred hand due to "double vision" gets 6-10 fingers of visual deception.

The effect of bokeh on the overall picture. Bokeh turns hands into hands in a cast.

The effect of bokeh on the overall picture. Bokeh turns hands into hands in a cast.

Bokeh plays a huge role in macro photography and portrait photography.

Bokeh is very important for macro photography, since there is almost always shooting within the limits of the lens capabilities and very small MDF, the depth of field is also very small, which means that the bokeh intensity is very high.

Bokeh for portraiture Is a whole separate science. Basically, it all comes down to not focusing on the background, but highlighting only the person's portrait itself. Watch the artist. I recently saw how an artist paints my portrait, he painted only my face and shoulders on his canvas, not paying attention to the external environment at all. But I was sitting against the background of the variegated vegetation of the park. As a result, only my shoulder portrait without any unnecessary details turned out on the canvas. The artist only slightly shaded the pencil on a white sheet to add volume. Actually, with the help of the “correct” bokeh, photographers try to select only the person himself, and “shade, turn into porridge, jelly” all unnecessary ones. Below is a portrait in which the bokeh has a bright Hollywood style, and focuses part of the viewer's attention precisely on the colorful contrasting background of round circles. At the same time, the contrasting unsharp discs add their own flavor to the picture.

Portrait with pronounced blur of the background. Shot on a Nikon D700 and Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm 1: 1.8 lens

Portrait with pronounced blur of the background. Shot on Nikon D700 and lens Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm 1: 1.8

Personal experience

Often, when viewing photos, for example, on, you can see only the operation of the lens itself, the bokeh of the lens, but by no means the work of the photographer. High-quality optics with “inimitable” bokeh can greatly relax the photographer and he will start to shoot any little thing with a beautiful blurred background and get “masterpieces”. Sometimes I myself suffer from this ailment, since I have to shoot sample photos for reviews on Radozhiv, and therefore, out of habit, I start shooting in a similar close up style at weddings, photo shoots, etc.

An example of an unusual pleasant bokeh, shot on a Canon EOS 350D and the Soviet lens Jupiter-8

An example of an unusual pleasant bokeh, shot on Canon EOS 350D and soviet lens Jupiter 8

What is the right bokeh?

There is no “correct bokeh”. Everyone has their own tastes. Someone likes the twisted bokeh of Biotars, someone likes the classic bokeh from 80-200 telephoto cameras. But, if we are to get out of life, then the bokeh should be the same as the human eye sees. I have spent experiment, on the pier by the sea, I looked at the night city. The whole city was on fire. I raised my index finger in front of me and focused on it. I caught a glimpse of the discs of blur from the city in the distance. The fact that I saw shocked me, I saw kruglyashki, but they were all in some kind of torn stripes, dents. Something like bokeh "eyes" in the picture below:

The likeness of human bokeh

Semblance of "human" bokeh. Bokeh of a human eye.

Of course, many will not like this picture (as above). If we take “natural bokeh“Then I like the tree shadow pattern on the grass. It's not exactly bokeh, but something very similar and natural. The disks of unsharpness have a smooth tonal transition (border). Here's what I'm talking about:

The play of the sun through the foliage of trees makes such a pattern on the earth

The play of the sun through the foliage of trees makes such a pattern on the earth. Something like Hollywood bokeh from nature.

Bokeh can be easily implemented programmatically. There is a million and one more plug-in for processing programs for this. But, Radozhiva does not specialize in articles about software.

Chasing bokeh

Many people buy DSLRs for the sake of taking pictures with beautiful bokeh. Often all photography stops at photographing “rounds” and interest in photography fades away. I don't recommend chasing bokeh very much. Yes, bokeh should suit your taste, but it shouldn't be the main focus of your photo. I am very often guided by one rule: if you look at the photo only at bokeh, then the photo is unsuccessful... Boke is kind of the side of the coin that no one should see. I shoot quite a lot, and not a single client has asked me a question about bokeh, nor spoke out for its "beauty" or "creaminess". Praise is always expressed in words like “wow, how beautiful, unusual”. People (not photographers) look at the picture, at themselves in the picture, for them completely different values ​​are more important, and bokeh remains only a method for the photographer, our little secret and a panacea.

Bokeh can be really dirty from dirty lens lenses, I have a separate article about this “dirt on the side".

Bokeh with a fast fifty

Bokeh with a fast fifty

Lenses and lenses again

It is customary to wage two main wars on the Internet - lens sharpness and lens bokeh (aka drawing). Consider that the lens pattern will very much depend on the scene that is washed out by this very lens... For bokeh, novice photographers often use fifty (prime lenses with a 50mm focal length). The fight for the best bokeh of fifty dollars is a whole epic. Speaking for myself, at first I liked the rough “not kosher” bokeh Nikon 50mm F1.8Dthen more even and smooth Nikon 50mm F1.2 AI-S MF.

Who drew attention to the bokeh?

Who drew attention to the bokeh?

Sample photos with pronounced bokeh effect

The bokeh effect is very easy to get when shooting at short focus distances. In this case, even with the simplest lenses, you can squeeze out a strong blur of the background. The bokeh effect is strongly manifested during macro photography. Below are my shots on different cameras with different lenses:


Boke - An interesting feature when creating photographs related to the concept of depth of field. Anything that does not fall into the field of focus can be called 'bokeh'. It is very difficult to judge the quality of the bokeh, as it is strong subjective factor.

↓↓↓ Like the article and share the link in social networks ↓↓↓. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval

Add a comment:



Comments: 175, on the topic: Bokeh. Thoughts about bokeh.

  • anonym

    If only in the examples, lenses would indicate ...

  • anonym

    Thank you for your articles.
    In my opinion, they are useful and interesting from the technical as well as the artistic side.
    Your work and your desire (I feel that it’s sincere) arouse great respect to help a novice photographer feel the real taste of such a wonderful hobby as photography.
    Good luck with this noble endeavor!
    Best regards, Sergey.

  • anonym

    Cream bokeh - unlike Hollywood, is designed to make the blur a real "blurry" method, without bright, various round pieces. Pr blur

  • Svetlana

    Arkady, thank you very much! Very useful and, most importantly, very beautiful! I’m just going to master tomorrow the joint work of a Soviet lens and a DSLR ... It’s unlikely that we will get such beauty right away as in your photographs ... But now I know what to strive for!

  • anonym

    Hello. I really want bokeh bubbles. Night city, all that. But I have a micra. Olympus, mirrorless. Do not advise the lens? Or is everything hopeless?

    • lynx

      bokeh bubbles bagels this mirror-meniscus lens you need.
      look at samyang 300 mm, for example. he seems to be under mikra.

  • Lyudmila

    The article is very interesting, and it’s nice to see the pictures .. I’m bragging about my bokeh, shot with a 50 mm f1.7 minolt

    • Onotole

      Google is responsible for Arcadia, in order:

      Canon FD50 1.8
      Helios 44-3
      Helios 44-4

      Travenar wide auto 1: 2.8 f = 28mm

    • Denis

      Good afternoon!

      Here is an overview of the lens in the third link from your question

  • Anna

    Arkady, good afternoon! Tell me, please, on which lens are the tulips shot, which are in the examples at the end of the article? Thank you so much for the article !!

  • Denis

    Arkady, good afternoon!

    Please tell me which lens this picture was taken

  • Denis

    Arkady, good afternoon! Please tell me which lens the picture was taken

  • Denis

    Repeat turned out, I'm sorry)

  • anonym

    God, I want to study and learn to take pictures !!

  • Andrei

    Good evening, tell me interesting creative lenses with different bokeh, I will be very grateful - this direction is interesting) beautiful article and excellent photos

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Good afternoon.
      Any lens can be creative. It is much easier to tell the lenses if the budget is indicated, otherwise there will be no use in this.

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    MC Helios 44M-7

  • anonym

    What is “Nervous” Bokeh?
    Comrades, recommend articles on the Internet or videos on youtube about Bokeh.
    It seems to me that on Radozhiv is not an article about Boke, but its draft or draft.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Rodion

      I have accumulated a ton of examples of optics with a variety of bokeh. It will be possible to classify and write something at your leisure.

  • anonym

    The given examples without specifying the lens with which they were shot and the matrix format do not carry any information are useless.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      In all photographs that are outside the gallery at the end of this article, shooting parameters are indicated below (model, focal length, aperture, etc.)

  • Alexander

    My very non-professional thought:
    Yes, in art photography, bokeh is beautiful.
    But there may be circumstances (you need to take a picture of a person close by, and so that you can see the distant background,
    and in the evening) and here, in theory, it will turn out bokeh, but I don’t need it., I need it so that the whole picture with all the details is visible (so that it would be clear that the person is on the background of for example a Boeing / mountain / amid something beautiful, and not against the background of some kind of barn that is generally hidden behind the bokeh).

    I personally think that technologies should have gone to the side to make the picture clear everywhere, and always, and not just in the focus area. Otherwise, technologies go ahead: we increase the matrix - the grip decreases, we increase the luminosity - we decrease the grip. As for me, there is a substitution: the quality of the photograph as a whole is reduced in detail, but look how beautiful it is. as if disadvantages are purposefully transferred to advantages / quality.

    I repeat, this is my personal opinion.
    I personally think that soon there will be an opposite situation, like: “fuuu, here is a pronounced bokeh. And we produce a camera that takes sharp foreground and background photos at the same time. ”

    • Novel

      Technically, it’s quite realistic to take a stack of photos with a variable focus, somewhere similar technology came across for more accurate focusing. If you have two cameras and a depth map, you can use the reverse technique of the one used for the so-called. software bokeh.

      But in reality there is no demand for it. On the DSLR, I simply press the aperture, and on the smartphone I turn off the bokeh effect, and a tiny matrix will give a decent DOF if the subject is not too close to the lens.

    • Novel

      By the way, there is a view among photographers that bokeh is a sign not only of expensive high-aperture optics, but also of an inept photographer. There is no bokeh in the painting, the background is well chosen. In studio shooting, bokeh is also not used, the working aperture is 8-11. In urban photography, bokeh allows you to hide visual debris - advertising and all other rubbish, beautifully blurring the lights, and high aperture - a necessary measure in cloudy weather or when shooting at night. But in order to educate an artistic taste, you can try to shoot with a tightened aperture. working carefully on the background (not even in landscape photography). It is quite difficult.

      • B. R. P.

        In painting, the image is not obtained through the lens - there is no bokeh. But everything is in the hands of the artist.

        • Valery A.

          The Impressionists have a lot of bokeh. Often solid bokeh.

    • Ivan Vodoved

      Trioplan 2.8 100 Meyer-Optik Gorlitz
      A pretty expensive lens with such a rare soapy bubble bokeh

      • anonym

        Thanks. His price, however ...
        Are there any other lenses with similar bokeh?

        • Ivan Vodoved

          Other Meyer-Optik Gorlitz lenses look a bit like bokeh

        • Ivan Vodoved

          more similar to Pentacon 80 2.8

    • Zhenya

      2020) but nonetheless. This is almost certainly a regular Helios 44 with inverted lenses. My example with such a modification

  • Vlad

    my bokeh on Helios and Nikkor 35mm.

  • Pokemon

    Nice and very descriptive video about bokeh (beginners will love it):

  • elhotag

    The most unusual bokeh at Zenitar ME1!

    • Rodion

      This “unusual” bokeh is mimicked by a regular square cut out and placed in front of the front lens.

  • Alexander

    Hello, can you please tell me if there is a 50 mm lens for a full frame, which gives uniform blur in the out-of-focus area without twisting and other distortions of spots from light sources? Or is it impossible in principle?

    • B. R. P.

      Completely. Light spots and glare are inevitable if they are in the frame.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      possible, but expensive and not always practical

  • Dmitriy

    I chose Glios for portraits, 44m-7 turned out to be the ugliest in bokeh pattern, especially with a multi-detailed background. Despite the high sharpness, I will never choose it ... 6 aperture blades - it will not be enough for beauty ..

    But I really fell in love with Helios 44-3, one of the best blurs .. It's not clear why they later abandoned such a wonderful picture.

    • B. R. P.

      When these lenses were produced, no one knew what “bokeh” was and least of all paid attention to the nature of the blur, especially manufacturers, and even Soviet ones.

Add a comment

Copyright © Blog author - Photographer in Kiev Arkady Shapoval. 2009-2023

English-version of this article

Version en español de este artículo