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What is the bokeh effect and how can we use it to make our photos artistic

What is the bokeh effect and how can we use it to make our photos artistic

It is an effect that many of us know, but that few know how to use: we are talking aboutbokeh effect. Initially, her name may not tell us much, but it is one of the key resources we must learn to use to fully exploit the potential of our photos.

Thanks to the bokeh effect, we can guide the gaze of our viewer. Likewise, it will help us to highlight the elements we want to highlight in the image. As if that weren’t enough, it can also be perfect for giving to any image that “artistic touch” that helps her go from being a simple image to a piece that provokes contemplation.

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What exactly is the bokeh effect?

Very briefly, we can say that the bokeh effect is the blur that we can apply to a photograph. His name comes from the Japanese word “boke” which can be translated as “foggy” or fuzzy.

We can think, for example, of a photographs such as portraits or detailed shots of small objects, where the background is usually blurred to avoid it drawing attention to the main elements of the composition. However, one of the simplest ways to imagine the bokeh effect is to think about what happens when we see the night lights of a city captured in a photo. Instead of seeing a point of light, particular luminous discs are created that can overlap each other.

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In general, our eyes don’t see these discs of light because our brain processes visual information and translates it into a three-dimensional structure in which the circles of light don’t fit. However, if we use glasses, we may be able to take them off and, in some cases, appreciate the bokeh effect in the lights.

The bokeh effect is particularly recognizable in the case of night lights. But this does not imply that only with them it is possible to obtain the blur effect. In fact, it is not necessary that there is a light source directly inside the image frame to see the bokeh. An aesthetically blurred background of nature, a room, a street or whatever comes to mind throws us into the bokeh effect.

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How useful is the bokeh effect?

As mentioned above, the bokeh effect can be used for both highlight elements of a composition both for add an aesthetic quality to it. In the first case, the background is usually blurred so that the main figure in the image is better defined and there is less “visual noise” that can distract our eyes. In the second, you can apply the bokeh effect for add drama to a photo or to change its dynamics. For example, an image of a cup left by a window while it rains can say completely different things depending on where we apply the bokeh. On the one hand, if we blur the window and focus on the cup, with the steaming coffee, the photograph could give us a warm, homey vibe. On the other hand, if we dim the cup and pay attention to the window with the raindrops falling on it, the image takes on a nostalgic and poignant tinge.

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Therefore, it is essential to know when and how to apply the bokeh effect to each photograph. All because only with it can we completely change what the image has to tell us.

How can I apply the bokeh effect in my photography?

Simple, it will all depend on two factors, the capture speed of the camera lens and the aperture. The first will be what will allow the bokeh effect to become visible in a photograph; the second will determine how intense it will be and what forms can be seen in it. For example, if we had a circular aperture diaphragm (the most common), we would come across the discs of light we have already talked about. On the other hand, if the aperture slopes more towards hexagonal or oval shapes, the bokeh effect of the photograph will tend to mimic that figure.

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In general, besides that detail, the most important thing is notice how much aperture the camera offers. The higher it is, the stronger and more noticeable the bokeh will be. The minimum aperture and aperture speed that lenses should have would be around f / 2.8, but the ideal would be between f / 2, f / 1.8 and f / 1.4.

Once that step is done, comes the moment of truth: it taking the photo. In these cases, if we have the camera in automatic mode, we must select the “Aperture priority” option in the shooting modes. In this way we can adjust its opening to the maximum possible. Likewise, we can also simply choose “Manual” mode and set the settings ourselves.

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When we shouldn’t use it

In general, whether or not the bokeh effect is used is primarily in the hands of the photographers. In other words, there are no specific rules that determine when it would be “correct” to use it and when it would not be.

The bokeh effect is mainly one “Artistic decision” which can be taken to give different shades to the same image. After all, depending on what we decide to focus on (or not to focus on), we will completely change what the focus of our capture would be.

Now, as a general tip, it’s worth learning to recognize some situations where the bokeh effect might subtract more than it adds to our images. For example, when the faded or blurry image is less interesting or “attractive” than the focused element. Also, if the bokeh effect is very intense, the shapes in the composition may get lost more. Consequently, it could generate a result that is not well defined and confusing to the eye.

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Clearly, there may be occasions when the goal is there deformation of a particular element or more mixture in the composition. So it is worth reiterating that these are not hard and fast rules to follow to the letter, but rather simple guidelines that could be used at the beginning of our first steps in the world of photography.