Bokeh on Point and Shoot Cameras

I get many emails from our readers asking me how they can get good bokeh out of their point and shoot cameras. I first thought about posting a short paragraph in a Photography FAQ post, but then decided to elaborate more on the subject and explain it in detail, rather than providing a short answer. Hopefully those who have point and shoot cameras will understand everything I say, since I will do my best to explain the subject in simple terms.

1) What is Bokeh?

As I explained in my “What is Bokeh” article, Bokeh is the quality of out-of-focus or “blurry” parts of the image rendered by a camera lens. The key word here is “quality”, since bokeh is not the second name for the blurry parts of the image. When you hear somebody say “the bokeh on that image is creamy and beautiful”, they are simply referring to the overall quality and feel of the out-of-focus area, not the out-of-focus area itself.

Creamy Bokeh

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How to Obtain Maximum Bokeh

In photography, the term bokeh represents the quality of the magical out-of-focus blur that makes it look like the subject is isolated from the background. It is visually appealing for us to see a photograph with a soft, creamy and beautiful background. It helps concentrate our eyes on a single area and creates a sense of depth and dimension on an otherwise flat-looking image. Let me share a few tips on how you could obtain maximum bokeh from your camera setup.

85mm f/1.4 Image Sample (5)

1) Use a large aperture

Bokeh is not created by the camera – it is your lens and its optics that are responsible for rendering the out-of-focus areas. Therefore, the first thing you should do is set your lens aperture to its lowest value, also known as “maximum aperture”. You can do this by changing your camera mode to “Aperture Priority” and setting the “f” number to the lowest value your camera will permit. On Nikon DSLR cameras, this is typically done by rotating the front dial towards the left (counter-clockwise).

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How to Photograph Children

Photographing children can sometimes be a challenging task, since children typically do not like posing for the camera (especially when they are too busy doing something they like). Everything happens way too fast, making it extremely difficult for the photographer to capture the moment. Because of that, many of us end up with blurry and out-of-focus photographs and wonder how we can improve our photography skills to get better results. After learning much about child photography, taking pictures of my two boys and doing some work on the field, I decided to write an article and provide tips and pointers on how you can successfully photograph children.

Powerful child portraits are much different than “look at the camera and smile” pictures. A true portrait will reflect a child’s personality, energy and uniqueness that every one of the bundle of joys have.

Malika Catching Rain

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What is Bokeh?

Bokeh, also known as “Boke” is one of the most popular subjects in photography. The reason why it is so popular, is because Bokeh makes photographs visually appealing, forcing us to focus our attention on a particular area of the image. The word comes from Japanese language, which literally translates as “blur”.

Bokeh

Bokeh

1) What is Bokeh?

Basically, bokeh is the quality of out-of-focus or “blurry” parts of the image rendered by a camera lens – it is NOT the blur itself or the amount of blur in the foreground or the background of a subject. The blur that you are so used to seeing in photography that separates a subject from the background is the result of shallow “depth of field” and is generally simply called “background blur”. The quality and feel of the background/foreground blur and reflected points of light, however, is what photographers call Bokeh. Confused yet? Take a look at the following image:

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Nikon Lens Bokeh Performance

If you don’t know what Bokeh is, I suggest reading an article here. Basically, bokeh is the rendering of out-of-focus areas by a camera lens. The tests on this page illustrate how bokeh is rendered by different Nikon lenses.

The following Nikon lenses were used in this test:

  1. Nikkor 50mm f/1.4
  2. Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX
  3. Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 DX VR
  4. Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro
  5. Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR

Since the focal lengths are different, I cropped images and resized them for your viewing pleasure. It is hard to compare bokeh on these lenses because it is impossible to measure them all with the same focal length. Also, the lenses vary in maximum/minimum aperture and good bokeh can only be achieved when the aperture is set to the maximum (lowest f number), meaning shallow depth of field. Focal length also plays a big role as can be seen with the 105mm VR.

All pictures were taken at ISO 200 (D300 native) with default camera settings without any post-processing, VR was turned off.

Bokeh Comparison

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