Bokeh…sometimes pronounced bo-ca and other times pronounced bo-kay. From what I understand, either is correct but that doesn’t tell you what it is? You may have even heard photographers talk about it and wondered to yourself, “What the heck is that and why do they want it in my photographs?” The formal definition is the visual quality of the out-of-focus area of a photographic image, especially as rendered by a particular lens.
Does that definition help you at all? If this helps, it has to do with the depth of field. Yes, another photography term which refers to the distance between the nearest and the furthest objects that are in acceptably sharp focus in an image. You can have a deep depth of field, like in the image below where everything is in focus:
Or you can have a shallow depth of field where only your subject is in focus which produces beautiful bokeh. Bokeh is quite useful in making a less than desirable or distracting background less obvious and keeps the attention on the subject. Maybe the woodchips he was standing in wouldn’t have distracted you, I felt that the woodchips being sharp was not adding anything interesting or pleasing to the image.
So, now are you wondering when to create bokeh? To be honest, that is a creative choice. I believe that if you’re a landscape photographer, you may not use bokeh as often as say, a portrait photographer. Landscape photographers want all of the landscape in focus so that you can revel in its glory. Everything is worthy of being in focus! In portrait photography, not everything is worth seeing clearly. Sure, there are times that you do want the background in focus. Perhaps it tells the full story of the image or it’s beautiful or unique enough to include, like below:
Using bokeh is stuck a creative and useful tool for photographers. The image below is a prime example of camouflaging the background. The tree was nice and I like how it flowed with the green in her dress, but it wasn’t a full tree. There were gaps in it and brown parts that weren’t that attractive but I knew what it would look like with the proper bokeh and tada!
I hope this has helped with your understanding of bokeh. So, the next time you hear that word or see it, you’ll know what they are talking about! Thank me later.