Photo Tip :: Bokeh!

-201 : a very sir tom christmas

Do you know what bokeh is? Bokeh is the word for those little blurry balls of goodness in the background of photos. It comes from the Japanese word for blur, boke. They can create the most beautiful effects in photographs, and it is one of the greatest sources of happiness for me (and other photographers - there are tons of Flickr groups dedicated to bokeh). Here's a few tips on how to achieve some great bokeh in your photos.

jour cent trente huit (christmas tree oooo christmas tree)

Lens & Aperture
Your lens matters a lot here, but that's not saying you cannot get some good bokeh on the kit lens. If you have the choice of lenses, a closer than normal view (more than 35mm) with a low f-stop value (2.8 or lower) is your best bet. Shooting with the kit lens? Set it to the distance with the lowest f-stop value you can (for Canon kit lenses, this is 18mm f/3.5). The above photo was taken with a kit lens set to 28mm at f/4. Pretty good bokeh for that!

-19 :  bokeh explosion stitch

Distance of Subject from Light
You'll want to be close to your subject and a little further from the light to get the best bokeh. I often set a stool about 1 foot from my Christmas tree to achieve the best bokeh.

bokeh bokeh

Christmas lights, cafe lights, street lights, and any light that distributes small amounts of light across multiple places work the best for achieving bokeh. I have a string of Christmas lights on hand that I can lay across the background of a set up if need be. The photo above has bokeh achieved by nearby street lamps that had 4 bulbs in them.

-174 : clockman!

Shaped Bokeh
Try masking your camera lens with a shape! Cover your entire lens with black paper and cut a hole in a shape in it. There are DIYs and premade kits - I highly recommend the kit. It works much easier, provides clear cut templates that give a crisp bokeh shape, and work the best. It holds up well too - I have had mine for over 3 years.

Hope that helps you figure out some fun effects! Be sure to ask questions in the comments!


  1. This is such a great tutorial! I love all your camera how-tos. :]

  2. oooh can't wait to try this out with my christmas tree this year!! i still have the kit lens, but hope to get a better lens soon.
    -- jackie @ jade and oak

  3. Great post, I'll have to try this out soon. My daughter was oohing and aahing over the adorable guinea pig picture. So cute

  4. OH MY GOODNESS I love this! Thanks for sharing :)

    ♥ Naomi {Starry Eyes + Coffee Cups}

  5. I never knew it was so easy! I will have to try this during Christmas time when the lights are everywhere and we have the tree set up.

  6. YES!!!! I was so excited to see this blog title, I've always admired your little fingers bokeh picture! Never knew where the name come from! I immediately pinned this to my favorite articles for reference, can't wait to start experimenting!
    xo Hannah

  7. Love the photo of Stitch! The blurred lighting is so fun. I am a huge fan of bokeh. The more the better!


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