- Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography
- Basics Photography 01: Composition, Second Edition (Basics Photography 1)
- Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots
- Focus On Composing Photos: Focus on the Fundamentals
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide
- Architectural Photography: Composition, Capture, and Digital Image Processing
- The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
- Composition Photo Workshop
Digital photography is a reality because of the brains, inventiveness and hard work of many scientists and technology specialists. They design and build cameras and lenses with a great depth of knowledge, so the knowledge you require to operate the equipment and capture excellent images is kept to a minimum. Part of the photographer’s knowledge includes many shooting techniques and methods as well as a few technical concepts.
One of the more abstract concepts with which you should be familiar is bokeh. As stated, in Part 1 of this PhotographyTalk.com article, bokeh refers to the condition, or impression, of the areas of a photo that are not in focus. It is the nature, or the quality, of the blur created by these areas. Part 2 provides additional information about bokeh. (It’s highly recommended that you read Part 1 first.)
You are shooting a portrait and purposely want the background to be blurred, but also smooth and even. If the background were a “firm” blur, then it could start to reveal textural qualities, and not appear soft and consistent. To achieve this, the center of each tiny, blurred circle of light should have more illumination. The illumination then gradually fades nearer the circumference of each circle, causing a smoother transition from one circle to the next than if each circle had a sharp edge. You could also be shooting a different kind of photo in which you want as much of the image as possible in focus. In that case, each point of light will display different bokeh qualities because they are almost in focus.
Looking for Bokeh in Photos You’ve Shot
One of the easiest methods to understand bokeh is to examine some of your previous photos. What you want to find are points of light in the background, such as distant lights in a night shot or rays of light spilling through the trees of a forest. Better quality bokeh will reveal the smooth transition between circles of light. If the circles of light have a distinctive border, then you are seeing “perfect” bokeh. Circles with the look of a donut have inferior bokeh.
While you’re examining the points of light in some of your photos, you might see some that are shaped like polygons, which is a reproduction of the lens diaphragm (You can actually count them!). An oval or lentil-shaped circle indicates that full aperture was used to shoot the picture.
Looking for Bokeh Through Your Lens
Search for a distant point of light, such as a streetlight at night. Focus on the point of light, as you watch the image on the viewfinder. Again, you should be able to see the three types of bokeh: circles with well-defined borders: “perfect” bokeh; circles as donuts: inferior bokeh; and circles with soft perimeters: correct bokeh. Focus from in front of to behind the point of light and you’ll see the nature of the bokeh vary.
Bokeh is real, although it is a fuzzy concept; but understanding a bit of the science and recognizing its various characteristics will definitely lead to better digital photos.