What is Bokeh?

When I first started photographing, I was so curious about the photos I would see of the smooth, blurred circles of light. What are these talented photographers doing and how I can achieve this similar effect? Sometimes I would see a photo of a cityscape at night, where I could distinguish just enough detail in the slightly out of focus image to recognize the town. Other times I would see a gorgeous photo in nature, where the sun or leaves created the creamy, soft look that kept my attention on the focal point of the person or an element outdoors. 

I started looking up this phenomenon and came across the very popular "bokeh" effect. Bokeh is a Japanese word, which means "blur." These photos  are not only pleasing to the eye, but they help draw our attention to specific parts of the photo that are sharp and in focus. Sometimes though, the entire image will be blurred, which creates a unique and artistic outcome all of its own. The image below was taken during an intimate wedding reception, and we intentionally captured the photo out of focus for a special impression of the bride and groom. 

Sentiero Photography

How to Create Bokeh

After some more research, I learned that bokeh was achieved from the type of lens and settings a photographer uses. Some lenses are designed to let a large amount of light in, which creates the bokeh effect as the lens captures the way the light reflects in the background. Photographers use a wide "aperature," or the opening that lets light into the lens. Bokeh can also take different shapes based on the type of lens used. I started investing in lenses that would create this cool effect and found I was just loving the outcome of my images. 

You may see very circular shapes of bokeh or even a type of hexagon. In the image below, the soft bokeh at this winter wedding reception was rendered with a bit of a unique and more edged shape. 

Sentiero Photography

Bokeh in Nature

Some of the most beautiful opportunities for bokeh are found outdoors, when the light is just right. In the image below, we were photographing a pacific northwest engagement session on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon.  As the sun was descending behind the forest trees, we were able to capture a smooth and soft bokeh effect through the woods which helps keep our attention on the lovely couple in the foreground (but it's hard not to focus on them, regardless of the bokeh!). 

Sentiero Photography

We photographed a woodland northwest elopement on a crisp and sunny early fall day, and found that the outdoor setting mixed with the autumn light created lovely green and gold bokeh behind the beautiful bride below. 

Sentiero Photography

Sometimes the way the light catches the leaves or the different textures found in nature will create the most shimmering, silky bokeh effect, like in these images below. 

Sentiero Photography
Sentiero Photography

Why Do We Love Bokeh?

As with anything, bokeh is subjective. Some think there is "good" or "bad" bokeh, some feel it's too trendy and over-rated, and some don't understand why you would want those little out-of-focus circles all over your photo. But we just love it! It really helps capture the mood of the moment and in so many instances creates this artsy, creative look that can take a simple photo of a subject to a new level. We always incorporate it into our photography sessions, and hope you enjoy it just as much as we do! Below are some examples of how we have used our environment, lighting, and the setting to create bokeh in more intimate, detail photos.. 

"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Mark Twain

Enjoy the beauty of bokeh! Cheers!