Learning about Bokeh

Bokeh: A photography term, derived from Japanese, that refers to the out-of-focus backgrounds, which are often used to reduce distractions and emphasize the primary subject.

In English: When the backgrounds of a photograph are all blurry but the subject is in focus.  😉

Examples:  Visit here.   Yep, that Bakerella has bokeh down.  There are tons of examples out there, her stuff was just fresh on my mind because I’m experimenting with her cake pops (but that story is for another day!)

Bakerella Cupcake PhotographBakerella Cupcake Photograph

This week in my photography class we are experimenting with  depth of field.  Well, I’ve learned a few things.  I have a point & shoot camera but it has a manual setting. (I can adjust the f-stop and aperture.)  So I thought getting a shallow depth of field would be manageable.  After a gazillion photographs, not one with a blurry background, I  went to the web for help.  (I had already read my manual and it was no help.)

This is what I learned from Sam.  “…If you WANT to defocus the background, you are going to have to work pretty hard at it. You would have to zoom to the longer end of the lens and set the aperture open as wide as it will go… and get pretty close to your main subject while having the background a fair distance away.”

So I set up my tripod, picked a subject matter (pincushion on fabric stack), put it far away from the background matter (bolts of fabric), zoomed in and managed to get a little bokeh. (Other issues of this photograph I won’t address here!)

Yep, honey.  I’m gonna need a digital SLR sometime.

PS That little contest is still comin’ up.  I’ve just been obsessed with cinnamon rolls and bokeh lately.  I’ll get on that post soon!

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14 Responses to “Learning about Bokeh”


  1. 1 Ericka Reynolds April 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    oh, baby….gotta tell ya, the digi SLR is wayyyyyy cool!! I haven’t even gotten way into what it can do and it is awesome!! I have the Nikon D40 which is pretty inexpensive now …..$400. I would highly recommend it!! what is the name of your Pima course you are taking?? maybe next summer I can swing it!!

  2. 3 ProudMom April 14, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Oh, how I want an SLR! I’m so close to making the plunge. I love bokeh, and I’ve also tried Bakerella’s cake pops! 🙂 I need to try them again though… 🙂
    Your bokeh turned out nice!

  3. 5 Melanie O April 15, 2009 at 9:14 am

    I have a point and shoot (Canon PowerShot) and the Macro setting gives me that effect. I don’t manually change anything else, just change the button from normal to macro. It is for shooting close-ups and it makes the background out of focus. I just bought the camera and I made sure it had a macro setting before buying it. I’d love a digital SLR someday, too, but until then my PowerShot is wonderful. I have a Minolta dinosaur SLR (non-digital) that takes beautiful photos, but seems so archaic to not know if your shot turned out until you get the film back! It cost me a fortune back in the day so I’m reluctant to replace it (or I’m unable to justify replacing it!)

    • 6 Melanie April 15, 2009 at 9:30 am

      Yes, I used the macro on the photo above. That’s the thing though – I want to be able to choose a subject to focus and make everything else blurred….and the level of bokeh isn’t even comparable. Plus if your background is close then it’s even less noticeable. I guess I just want more control than the point-and-shoot offers.

      • 7 Melanie O April 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

        Oh, I understand what you mean. With the point-and-shoot you’re kind of hoping that it gets the right thing in focus and blurs the right thing. You can control it with an SLR. Now I remember learning all that aperture and shutter speed stuff in photography classes! I’d have to relearn it all, I think, if I got a new SLR. Or, maybe not, it might be like riding a bike, right? 😉

  4. 8 Melanie April 15, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Exactly! I bet after you fiddled with it, you’d remember. Plus reading up on a few photography subjects would surely spur your memory! The photography class I’m taking is at the community college here – and it’s really taught me a lot!

  5. 9 randomrevelations April 15, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I love that look. So far, I am trying to accomplish it in photoshop. Maybe that is a curse word to you now that you are getting into photography.

  6. 11 colour du jour April 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Anything you learn from your class and share here on your blog, I will gladly soak up too. I took the plunge in December and bought a Nikon D90 (went for broke!) I love it (except the weight) but then in February I upgraded my lense to 18-200. How I wish D SLR was available when my kid were little! I really haven’t done much more that use the D90 as a point and shoot, tho. But with the new lense I can get lots of bokeh. without trying.

    • 12 Melanie April 16, 2009 at 8:37 am

      I think the D90 is out of my price range – but I’m really really glad to know that you you like it. the people I know with Nikon models all really like them – It gives me something to look forward to!!!

  7. 13 colour du jour April 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    another resource for you is over at the Pioneer Woman click on her photography tab. Get ready for her awesome photos and cooking and funny stories about her kids, AND her personal romance story all rolled into one blog.

  8. 14 craftapple April 17, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Very cool! I don’t know how to do that, but every once in a while a random picture will have that effect and I’ll think, “Cool!”.


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