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”.



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:

House Sparrow

The house sparrow is in focus and sharp (which means that it is inside the depth of field), while the background is out of focus (which means that the background is outside the depth of field). The small or “shallow” depth of field is the result of standing relatively close to the subject, while using a large aperture. See those round circles of different color on the left side of the image? Those are light reflections and they are circular because that’s how the lens rendered them. In this case, the soft “feel” of those circular areas is what photographers would call “good bokeh”. While some photographers argue that bokeh is just about the quality of the circular light reflections, many others, including myself, believe that bokeh is about the quality of the entire out-of-focus area, not just reflections and highlights..

2) Good and Bad Bokeh

Remember, bokeh is rendered by the lens, not the camera. Different lenses render bokeh differently due to unique optical designs. Generally, portrait and telephoto lenses with large maximum apertures yield more pleasant-looking bokeh than cheaper consumer zoom lenses. For example, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens produces exceptionally good-looking bokeh, while the Nikon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G DX lens produces poor bokeh at the same focal length and aperture – all due to differences in optical designs of both lenses. Again, I am not just talking about the background blur; all lenses are capable of producing out of focus blur, but not all lenses are capable of rendering beautiful bokeh.

So, what is a good or beautiful bokeh? A good bokeh pleases our eyes and our perception of the image and therefore, the background blur should appear soft and “creamy”, with smooth round circles of light and no hard edges. Here is an example of beautiful bokeh rendered by the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens:

Creamy Bokeh

Creamy Bokeh

Pay attention to the smooth background behind the child’s face. The out-of-focus areas look creamy and the circles are round and soft with beautiful transitions between the blurry areas. That’s exactly what you would call good bokeh!

How about bad or ugly bokeh? Although a lot of people argue that there is no such thing as a bad bokeh, I still call whatever distracts my eyes “bad”:

Bad Bokeh

Bad Bokeh

Open up the larger version of the above image and see for yourself – the quality of the blur is not pleasant to the eye, with sharp edges of the circles and double lines.

3) Bokeh shapes

The shape of the reflected light in out of focus areas depends on the lens diaphragm. Many older lenses such as Nikon 50mm f/1.4D have 7 straight blades in their diaphragms, which results in heptagon-shaped bokeh like this:

Bokeh - 50mm

Most new lenses, now come with 9 rounded blades, which render round bokeh (Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR):

Bokeh - 105mm

4) How to get good Bokeh

So, how do you get a good bokeh in your images? As I have pointed out above, bokeh depends on the type of lens you are using. While lower-end consumer zoom lenses will yield unpleasant bokeh, fixed (prime) lenses and most professional zoom lenses with fast apertures yield good-looking bokeh. Do you know if your lens produces good bokeh? Try this: focus on an object from a very close distance (as close as the lens will allow, keeping the object in focus), making sure that there are no objects at least 5-6 feet behind it. Make sure to be on the same level as the object itself, so that you are not looking down on it. Do not use a plain wall as your background – try to find a colorful background, preferably with some lights on it. A Christmas tree is a perfect background for a bokeh test. Once you find a good test subject with a suitable background, set your camera to “Aperture Priority” mode and set your aperture to the lowest number. On most consumer zoom lenses, the lowest aperture is typically f/3.5, while on prime and professional zoom lenses, it can be between f/1.2 and f/2.8. Once the aperture is set to the lowest value, take a picture of your subject and take a look at the rear LCD of your camera. The subject should be in focus, while the background is blurred. If you have a good lens, the bokeh should be soft and fuzzy, looking pleasing to the eye as shown in the example above. The circular reflections should be round and soft, with no hard edges.

5) What lenses create great bokeh?

There are many lenses that create great-looking bokeh. Most fast prime lenses with round-blade apertures such as Nikon 85mm f/1.4D or Canon 85mm f/1.2II USM create exceptionally good-looking bokeh. The lower-cost version of the same lens – Nikon 85mm f/1.8D and Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM also produce beautiful bokeh. One of my favorite lenses for beautiful bokeh is the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, but be careful about the older Nikon 50mm f/1.4D or the 50mm f/1.8D, since they both produce heptagon-shaped bokeh as shown above. There are too many lenses to list, so I recommend doing some more research on different lenses, based on your photography needs.

6) Other examples of bokeh

Here are some other examples of great-looking bokeh:

Harris's Hawk in Flight

Captured with Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S + TC 14E II

Captured with Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro

Captured with Nikon 70-200mm VR

Captured with Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S

Captured with Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

  • Vasan

    Hi.. Nice article on “Bokehs”.. I never heard of such a term till now, though I have been seeing them…

    I am just a budding photographer (as you might be knowing by now), and want to buy a good camera and lens….

    based on what I saw, I am planning to take a Nikon D90 with the kit lens 18-105 VR lens… Later planning to buy AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G for zoom purpose…

    Appreciate your suggestions… Btb, I am in denver, colorado.. Thanks.

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Vasan, thank you for stopping by and dropping a comment!

      The Nikon D90 is an excellent camera, I’m sure you will love it.

  • F-ara Amoie

    i’m using D3000..can’t u tell me how to get good bokeh ?

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      F-ara, bokeh largely depends on the lens. You need a good portrait lens like 35mm f/1.8G or 50mm f/1.4G to get good bokeh…kit lenses with large apertures typically don’t yield good-looking bokeh.

      • Ryan

        does canon 50mm lens also create good bokeh?

        • http://www.juicylight.com Philip Jensen

          Hi Ryan,

          I hope you bought the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 by now, it produces WONDERFUL bokeh. It is one of the most wonderful “cheap” lenses that Canon make. That is why it is called plastic fantastic. :)

          • Steve

            Now I’m thinking about Jefferson Airplane. You threw me into a time warp!
            I’m shooting film with a Canon A-1. I’ve been using Canon’s 50 mm f/1.8 for a number of years. Is that the lens you’re thinking of? I also recently got a 50/1.4 from a second hand store. I’ll have to look into this whole bokeh business some more. Thanks. And thanks to Nasim for the informative article.

          • Steve

            Now I’m thinking about Jefferson Airplane. You threw me into a time warp!
            I’m shooting film with a Canon A-1. I’ve been using Canon’s 50 mm f/1.8 for a number of years. Is that the lens you’re thinking of? I also recently got a 50/1.4 from a second hand store. I’ll have to look into this whole bokeh business some more. Thanks. And thanks to Nasim for the informative article.

  • Jaime

    Thank you thank you for this informative blog! I have owned a Nikon D50 for 5 years and have always been nervous switching it out of Auto mode… I’m embarrassed to admit :) I don’t want to upgrade until I educate myself. Your blog has been more helpful than any of the books I have (tried to) read- they are so confusing and put me to sleep. You and your wife explain things simply and perfectly! Keep up the good work!!! And the recipes look delicious- can’t wait to make the beefstroganoff this week. :)

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Jaime, thank you for your feedback – Lola and I really appreciate it!

      • Jillian

        Can you recommend a good yet affordable lens in the fuji, four thirds, and sony system? I am about to invest in one of these brands and I have been trying to research this lens for great brokeh.

  • Manish

    What type of bokeh would we get from a Nikon 18 – 105 mm?
    Good or Bad?
    Am planning to buy a Nikon D3100 with 18 – 105 mm lens.Thanks

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Bokeh on 18-105mm is bad when compared to portrait lenses. If you want good bokeh, you need to get something like the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G.

      Hope this helps.

      • girish

        Yes, it helps me. Thank you nasim

  • Mindie Hill

    I have a Nikon D300. I am wanting to step up in lenses – have the kit lens now. I am shooting my cousin’s wedding in January… late afternoon ceremony, 100+yr old church with very high vaulted ceilings made out of very dark wood, and the windows are stained dark blue. They of course want only the old chandeliers and candle light (have a lightsphere for my flash) They would like outdoor shots after the ceremony as well as inside the church. The church is surrounded by trees, so any sunlight on the horizon will be blocked by the trees. The reception is in a repurposed old barn with halogen overhead lights. I am very much set on the 50mm f/1.4G for most of my work (which is newborns, children, families in mostly natural light);however, if I were to be able to get one more lens @ this point which one would be helpful in the wedding situation?
    Thank you so much for your time and suggestions.
    Mindie Hill
    moments in frame

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Mindie, I don’t see how you can shoot the ceremony in such bad light without using flash. Even if you shoot with the 50mm f/1.4G, there won’t be enough light to illuminate your subjects’ faces. Instead of buying another lens, I would get a good flash like Nikon SB-900. I have shot inside old churches and I know that the ambient light is extremely low…

      • mindie

        I do have a sb-600. And was considering the 900, though I don’t do a lot a weddings, and only shooting this one because it is my cousin. I have a Gary Fong lightsphere also. In your opinion is the 600 adequate or do I need to go to the expense of the larger flash? Though I will not use it as much as a true wedding photog. or is my money best spent on a lens that I will be able to use in the natural lighting situations I am usually shooting in?

        • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

          Mindie, the SB-600 will work great for indoors shots. Coupled with the Gary Fong lightsphere, you should be able to take some good pictures in challenging light. Don’t forget to bump up your camera ISO and try shooting in TTL mode. And getting the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G will certainly help, since you can lower the aperture and shoot at faster shutter speeds/lower ISO.

  • DeAnna

    I am interested in purchasing the Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G (with the D300s), would this lens produce a desirable bokeh?
    Thanks so much!


    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      DeAnna, no, the Nikon 16-85mm is not going to produce good-looking bokeh. If you are looking for a lens that has good bokeh, take a look at the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G or the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G if budget is an issue…

  • hill

    Heyy, does the nikon 55-300vr have nice brokeh?

    Im planning to buy one, but im not sure with the brokeh. thanks.

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Hill, its bokeh is OK, not as good as in some prime lenses like Nikon 50mm f/1.4G.

  • http://penawar85.wordpress.com syifa

    thanksssss a lotttttttt….
    i am taking a photography class..and am assigned to know more about bokeh… this site helps!!

  • http://penawar85.wordpress.com syifa

    by the way, what is the difference or how to differentiate macro and bokeh images?

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Syifa, macro usually means close-ups. When you see small bugs enlarged in photos, they are usually shot with a macro lens.

      • Sivai

        Nasim.. Thanks for the wonderful article.. I am in love with your blog ;) Can you please help me with the difference – a macro lens and zoom lens? Are they both different or mean the same.. i.e. if the zoom is higher, then you can take a macro shot with that??

        Thanks in advance!!!

        • http://chrisjohns.co.uk Chris johns


          ‘Macro’ is the ability to focus on objects that are Closer than could normally be focussed on with a ‘normal’ (easier to design and cheaper to make) lens of the same focal length in use. In a non-zoom lens this would require that the glass of the lens can be moved further away from the camera’s focal plane that would be possible with a ‘normal’ lens.

          ‘Zoom’ is the ability to change the Focal Length of a lens.

          Conceptually then, they have nothing to do with each other.

          Design and Manufacturing-wise, there is sometimes taken the opportunity to utilise the ability to change the distances between various groups of elements within a zoom lens (essential to enable the focal length to be altered) to also enable the elements to be positioned further away from the focal plane within the camera, such that the Effective image to lens distance is made bigger than would be possible with a (simpler) ‘normal’ (whether zoom or not) lens. This effectively increased image to lens distance will enable the bringing into focus of objects that were previously too far away to be focussed on.
          Whether or not the design of a Zoom lens is such that it will also enable this different type of rearrangement of the lens groups is not predictable from its zoom focal length range. It would add to the complexity and therefore manufacturing cost of a ‘non-macro’ zoom lens. The ‘macro’ facility is often only provided only at one end of the focal length range of a zoom lens (often the wide angle end).

  • John

    nice topic..thanx for sharing your knowledge. i have a question to you.. just buy d3100 but wondering can i get a good bokeh using the kit lens which is 18-55mm..i know it impossible to get a good bokeh like those picture..as long as this kit lens give a liltle bit bokeh..i think that should be enough to me..since im newbie..really appreciate if you can share your knowledge..

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      John, no the kit lens won’t give you good-looking bokeh. If you want good bokeh, I would suggest to get a fast prime lens like the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G

      • John

        thanx for the answer nasim..really appreciate..ur blog really good..

  • jpatiani

    Hi Nasim,
    Nice article. I wonder, you suggest Nikon 50mm f/1.4G for good-looking bokeh for example. Is there any different if I use D or S series instead of G? Is it still produce good bokeh?

  • Lyn

    Hai, I’m using Nikon D90 and just bought 50mm f/1.8D AF. can u tell me how to get a good bokeh using this lense. Do you have any suggestion on the setting using this lense since I can’t shift to any other f except f22 or it will show the FEE error…I really appreciate if you can help me.

    • Artiom

      Hello, yes please I have the same question… Just bought that set and worrying maybe to change to 35mm :(

  • Raul Rojas

    Great explanation! Now I understand what bokeh is all about. Sometimes when looking at a picture one likes it or not, ignoring the science behind it. thanks!

  • Scott

    Hi Nasim,
    I know that you recommend the 85mm 1.4 for portraits, bokeh and subject isolation. How does the 105mm 2.0 DC compare? Which lens would have better boken and subject isolation?

    • Scott

      Hi Nasim,
      I have heard that the Nikon 105mm 2.0 DC (Defocus Control) lens produces great bokeh. Do you have any experience with this lens. I am trying to determine if the 105mm 2.0 DC or the 85mm 1.4G has better bokeh. Help!

      • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

        Scott, yes, the 105mm DC indeed does produce nice bokeh. However, I personally prefer both the focal length and the bokeh of the new Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G. If you shoot outside all the time and you can get a good deal on the 105mm, then it might be worth considering. Otherwise, I find it too long for my needs.

  • Janis Ramos

    Dear Nasim,
    I have enjoyed reading your informative article on shooting birds, and all about the bokeh. You present your ideas very clearly, and I appreciate that.

    I am a second shooter for beach portraits, and shoot with a Nikon D300. I like using the Nikor 70–200, F2.8 for shooting candids, and would like your opinion on a camera setting preference, such as shutter or aperture priority, for the best possible bokehs.
    We usually shoot about an hour before sunset.

    Thank you so much,

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Janis, just shoot aperture priority at f/2.8 and get as close to your subject as possible – you will get beautiful bokeh with your 70-200mm.

      • Janis

        Thanks for your quick reply, Nasim!

        I’ll be trying it out this afternoon!

        All the best……

  • sandip

    Thanx for the article, it was a good learning experience for me. I recently bought a Nikon D3100 and am looking to buy a lens that will get me good bokeh, without breaking my bank. I was considering buying “Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G” but since u said sometimes zoom lenses can yield fairly good bokeh so do u think about the “Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 DG Macro” or “Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro”.
    As these will also get me flexible zoom with macro options.
    Since budget is limited, which of these do u think will get better bokeh ??

    Thank you

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Sandip, I would get the 50mm f/1.8G instead of any long zoom like the Sigma 70-300mm if you are looking for a good portrait lens. As for macro, neither one of these is good. The Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR is a good macro lens.

  • Jasmine

    Hello, i just bough a nikon d90 come with lens kit 18-108 mm its good for bokeh….or what lens should i get..something that afordable this is my hobby thank you for helping..

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Jasmine, no, the 18-105mm lens does not have good bokeh. Try a standard lens like the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G – it will be a world better than your 18-105mm. Lenses with beautiful bokeh like the 85mm f/1.4G are normally very expensive (over $1500).

      • sandip

        Thanx Nasim, i got the nikon 50mm f/1.8G…man i love the bokeh this lens renders :-D…
        Here is one frome my few first shots http://www.flickr.com/photos/59212957@N03/6253481866/

        • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

          Sandip, that’s a nice pic of your cat! Yes, the 50mm rocks!

  • dr.raghavan

    dear sir,really it was very useful all ur information on this subject ‘bokeh’.
    let ur infos may bring new photgraphy lovers with inspiration and gratitude.

    thanking u

  • Sanket Chhabra

    Hey I have heard abt bokeh but didnt know what it was……this is an excillent article…. I am just 16 and very passionate abt photography!! I have a nikon d90 with a 18 to 108mm vr lense…could u pls guide me on how to take a photograph with a good bokeh!! Thank you!!

  • Renee

    What is the difference between a Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G?

  • CV

    I have nikon D90 and 18-105 mm lense.. I was blur foreground and focus on background.. how I do that..? I know its not sort of related to topic of bokeh.. but I would be glad if anyone could help me? (:

  • BC

    im going through reading all that you have to offer here, what a great site! glad to have found it… Wondering if you can help me decide on what lense to go with I love the sharp(but rounded) bokeh your talking about. I am buying a lense mostly for running after children to take great portraits of them through their life. I have a Canon, but I have noticed you use a Nikon,but I have been looking at the sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 would you say this is a good choice? But Im also thinking of going without a zoom(50mm f/1.4) to make the camera smaller to take anywhere with me. Do you think I would miss that zoom like crazy? nd last question… do you know if the circles on the sigma lense are hexagons or soft circles like you just taught me to appreciate so very much.
    Thanks for sharing your great knowledge, what a gift you have.

  • Elmer B

    What is the best way to have the clear focus on the subject? I am using a canon ef 50mm f/1.8 lens. Somehow my shots are still getting some blur around the edge, and not as crisp as I though it would be.

  • tim

    Loved the information you provided. In regards to primes, how many different ones do you usually use (or which are your favorites). I am looking primarily at the 50 f1.4 and the 85 f1.8. Do you think these two lenses compliment each other enough to live without a zoom? thanks, tim

  • Dr Bakhtiar

    Dear Nasim
    I am very pleased with your work, I am in Hyderabad city in India.
    I have Nikon d7000 and Sigma 150-500 lens
    I love to photograph birds, I find it that pics are not as sharp as expected.
    I am using high ISO and high shutter speed also, pl advice

  • nick in class

    this is pathetically boring

    • http://chrisjohns.co.uk Chris johns

      nick in class
      Who is it who is forcing you to read this? I suggest you report them to the authorities.

      Not having come across Bokeh by name before, I am finding it not only very interesting , but also very useful. (Apart from the repeated posting – we all make mistakes).

      Maybe you would find it more ‘rewarding’ to be watching Big Brother on TV or something like that?

  • nick in class

    i agree:) i love birds also<3, my camera is old:(

  • Coach Chapman

    i have a basketball team and we use our schools cameras to take photos and idk the name of them

    • nick in class

      Hi coach chapman i didnt know you liked photoshop

  • robbie

    is the nikon d5100 a good camera for this and whts the cheapest price for a nikon d5100 and 18-55mm nikor lens

  • Avtar

    Today i read your article this is really interesting and i learnt a lot from this. I am crazy about photography but i don’t have any good SLR. Always i was finding a Camera and Lens which can blur background. After reading this article i knew some tips and knew about lenses. I decided to buy a Camera Nikon V1 but it has few lenses like 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, AF-S NIKKOR
    50mm f/1.8G and 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM. There are only these lenses are available for V1. Please suggest me if Should I buy V1 Camera and any lens from these for nice portrait and awesome BUKEH ??. (I want click like Model’s pictures). Thanks

  • Avtar

    Today i read your article this is really interesting and i learnt a lot from this. I am crazy about photography but i don’t have any good SLR. Always i was finding a Camera and Lens which can blur background. After reading this article i knew some tips and knew about lenses. I decided to buy a Camera Nikon V1 but it has few lenses like 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, AF-S NIKKOR
    50mm f/1.8G and 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM. There are only these lenses are available for V1. Please suggest me if Should I buy V1 Camera and any lens from these for nice portrait and awesome BOKEH ??. (I want click like Model’s pictures). Thanks

  • Balanarasimha V T

    I have recently purchased 2 Nikkor lenses ,1 VR 30 -110 mm f/3.8 5.6 and another AF_S DX VR Zoom 55 -200 mm f/- 5.6G IF -ED and i have Nikon D 90 camera (with AF_S DX VR 18 -105 mm 1.35- 5.6G -ED lense).
    Pl let me know whether the new lenses are good ones and the price is reasonable ( i have paid US $ 265.00 for both the lenses).
    Thanks in anticipation of an early reply.
    V T Balanarasimha

  • Adeel

    Hi Nasim,

    This site is of great help. I have a question, I have a Nikon D90 for almost 2 years now. Was shooting the pics mostly on auto, recently have understood the manual functions. Have the stock lens 18-105MM lens. I have a friend who is a photographer and uses Canon Mark III 5D. What I have noticed is, Nikon has sharper pictures and Canon pictures are really colorful. I am planning to change to Canon 7D just because of the amazing color rendering it has. Please do check out WSSA on facebook or http://www.wssaphoto.com and please let me know if the same results can be achieved with Nikon or D90 ? Also, is there any long range lens for Nikon(probably upto 200-300MM with which we can achieve nice Bokah)? I like mostly photographing people(is that known as portrait photography)?

    Please do let me know about this, as I am really very confused….

    Thankx a ton…
    Btw… your website RoCkS ;-)

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Adeel, you can’t be serious about switching to another brand just because you think it has better colors? There is no such thing – you can make whatever colors you want. It is all about how you post-process your images.

      Focus on your photography, not your gear. As for your lens question, I have plenty of articles that talk about lenses – do some research and you will find your answer.

  • Bilal

    Excellent article help me alot in understanding some basics…..

  • Abhishek.gsharma

    This is a really good site. I am addicted to this site.

    Will be reading and making notes from this site for many days to come.

    I am quite sure will become a gr8 photographer.
    P.S. I had been using my Nikon D3000 for the past one year in the auto mode. Finally decided to learn photography and draw all power of my gear. Got this site in gr8 timing.


  • Azharuddin Khadri

    Hi Nasim,

    It is indeed a great pleasure to know you. i have learnt so many things about the photography today, i still got a long way to go. But i am sure i ll learn a lot from your blog here.
    I am totally new to Photography, recently bought a canon 55od 18-55mm lens. I am Chef by profession & want to create a niche for myself in “Food Photography” as a passion. I would like to know that 50mm/f.1.8 is a decent lens to create a Bokeh? dont want spend much on the lenses now!

  • natasha

    Hi Naseem,

    Your articles are wonderful and really help alot for beginners like me. I have a Canon 550D T2i, i love to take pictures of my kids but like you mentioned they keep moving & the image is very blurry.

    Can you please suggest me what setting to use to avoid this. You mentioned that we should be on Aperture mode keeping it to the lowest & adjust the shutter speed & ISO on the lowest if possible.

    Also i would like to know which lense is good to buy, i have 18-55mm & 70- 250mm. Am looking for a macro lense as well so that i get good Bokeh image.

    Looking forward to your response.

  • Stacey

    Hi, i am new to the portrait world but am loving my new DSLR 3100 Nikon! I have the 18-55mm stock lens it came with, but i take alot of distant sports picts and would like to buy a good zoom lens that is going to give me good results. My son plays football and wrestles and my husband plays softball, so i am taking distant sports shots. Could you give me a good suggestion of a zoom lens to buy? i am looking at the 55-300 f/4.5-5.6g or the 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6g any help would be great. thanks.

  • Vindy

    Hi Nasim,

    Really informative writeup. Is there any other article where you have mentioned the best settings for portraits with good bokeh?

    I have a f1.8 35mm prime lens for my sony alpha 200 camera, but not able to get creamy bokeh.

    Will using the widest aperture (f1.8 in this case) lead to any compromise in the sharpness or other aspects of the photogrpahs? I heard that lens wont perform at their best if f value is largest or smallest in the range and that there is a sweet spot.

    Thank You for leading all of us to take better pictures. Do let me know if you plan to come to India.


  • Mayur

    I really liked your article Nasim sir!!
    I just purchased Nikon D5100 with kit lense 18-55mm. Now as my first lense I am more inclined towards Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Lens as it cheaper and have wide aperture too. Budget is really my concern.
    What’s your thought on this lens and bokeh using it? This has no VR, no autofocus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/NaftoligoldgrabPhotography Naftoli

    hello nassim, i think i remember reading somewhere that bokeh is the out of focus area in an image and soft circles that appear r not bokeh, they r called circles of confusion, is this true?

  • vivien

    I have a Pentax K100. I have tried to get bokeh with camera in AV mode & aaperture on f3.5. I can get absolutely no blurring of any kind and am very frustrated. What am i doing wrong???
    I would be most grateful for any help you can give

    • http://500px.com/kumar_varun kumar varun

      Take care of these things if you want bokeh:
      1. Get closer to the subject.
      2. f/3.5 is not an ideal aperture for bokeh, but still you can get somewhat bokeh from it. All you need to take care is that the distance between the subject and the background should be huge.
      3. Use the max focal length available on your lens.

  • Pascal

    Wow, really like this site. A ton of excellent information! I just bought my first DSLR after long hesitation. I used to shoot with a Nikon F601 film camera. The hesitation was mainly driven by the fact that I would need to buy all new lenses and other accessories such as a flash. But man, DSLR camera’s are great (bought the D7000) .
    Quick question Nasim: just out of curiosity, what lens(es) did you use for the pictures in “6) Other examples of bokeh”?

  • Louise Hutt

    You have made this complex subject so easy to understand. When I initially read about ‘blur’ on wikipedia it frazzled my brain, but you have broen it down with excellent examples and have made it understandable.

    I love your site and find your tips so useful :)

    Thank you

  • Levi

    Great post on boke! I absolutely love the Nikkor 85/1.4G for portraits. I’ve also found the Sigma 50mm/1.4 to produce creamier and rounder boke balls of lightsources than the Nikkor 50mm/1.4, although the focus ring is definitely much more cumbersome for those who like to use manual focus. Thanks again for the great info, you guys are excellent!

  • http://www.montaz.gr wedding photographer

    Awesome infos.
    I am a wedding photographer from Athens, Greece and i love your work and your website.
    Thanks for sharing

  • Evert

    Thanks for very instructive info about bokeh. I admired your nature pictures very much. Evert, nijmegen, nl.

  • http://enlightenyouphotography.wordpress.com Brandy

    This is wonderful! Thank you for posting!

  • Neil


    Great article, really informative!

    I am new to photography and have bought a Nikon D3200 with 18-55 lens. Our baby is due in March and I was wondering which lens would be best for indoor baby portraits with nice bokeh? I have been looking at the nikkor AF-S DX 35mm f1.8G and the nikkor AF-S 50mm 1.8G (apparently fits DX). I was hoping to use the lens in a variety of situations but not sure which would be the better length as I have read that on a DX format body the said lenses equate to approximately 52mm and 75mm respectively. The 35 is slightly cheaper but they are roughly the same price at around £150 ($238).

    Many Thanks :-)

  • Vinil Lal.E

    Dear Sir,

    Your article is very informative and excellent for beginners and professionals.

    My name is vinil from India. I am a beginner in DSLR photography. I have a Nikon D3100 camera with 18-55m lens. When I shooting the picture I didn’t get enough image quality compared to Nikon P510 that I had before. ( I know its my fault). 1). Please tell me how I get a good image using D3100 in daylight using 18-55mm lens. 2). Which lens is good for me to shoot portrait and landscape photo with effects like good bokeh, good image quality etc. I am not intended to shoot wildlife or macro photos. Your reply is much helpful for me

  • Chittaranjan

    hey….nice article…loved the pics……..i am from India so i belong to a middle class family and i have decided to buy a lower budget camera Canon SX160 IS ….please do tell me if this is good for for amature photography.. I am 16 years old.. and i onlly wish to take some pics of birds and flowers…i will consider your suggestions on any other camera around this price range….I will be obliged to receive your reply…

  • Shri

    HI Nasim,

    I have Canon T4i rebel with 18-135 IS STM lens….I am a beginner in the photography and its my hobby….I am looking for lens for good bokeh….but should not be very costly….

    Could you suggest me something better ???


  • Rohit

    Hi Nasim, I have a Sony A57 with Lentar 135mm f/2.8 lens. I have paired it to the camera using an adapter. Is it possible to get good bokeh with this combination? Since there is no electrical connection between camera and lens, I have to manually focus.


  • sathish

    Hi Nasim,
    I own Nikon Coolpix l820 P & S camera, which I recently bought. I love to shoot nature and so bought this camera for practice. Want to know if my selection of this camera is the right choice.
    And these are the specification of my camera-
    Lens f/-number: (f/3-5.8) – Aperture
    Sensor Size: (1/2.3 in)
    Lens Focal Length: 4.0-120.0mm
    Lens Zoom: (30x Optical Zoom)

    I have 2 questions here to clarify me-

    1. Is it possible for me to take a ‘bokeh’ shot using this camera?
    2. Also I am getting a blurred shot
    > whenever I take a snap of my kid even if she is slightly moved &,
    > whenever I tried to take a shot of a moving sheet of a big monthly calendar.

    Please guide me as I am worried if something wrong with my new camera or if I need to correct through some settings. Thanks!

  • Oksana lyesogorova

    Dear Nasim,

    I am thinking to purchase nikon 7100d. Is it worth the money or should I spend more on nikon d600? Would Nikon 7100d with a good prime lense deliver as good quality images as nikon d600?

    Would appreciate your advice.
    Thank you.

    • https://photographylife.com Nasim Mansurov

      Oksana, yes, the D7100 is a very good DSLR overall. If budget is not an issue, get the D600 instead though, since it has a full-frame sensor and much better image quality. I assume this would be a camera for everyday needs, not specific to specific types of photography. If you are a sports or wildlife shooter, the D7100 might be a better fit due to a better AF system. Otherwise, the D600 is what I would personally go with…

      • Oksana Lyesogorova

        Thank you very much for your reply, Nasim!
        I will mainly use it for family pictures, landscapes and occasionally for wildlife and night photography (like night sky etc). I am on a budget but since there is no much difference in price between these two cameras I would go for nikon d600 if the image quality is much better. After reading so much info on the subject Full frame vs. crop I am frankly confused now as to whether I need full frame at all…
        Also do you know if there is difference in image quality when comparing nikon d600 and canon 6d? I read that latest Nikon cameras have better image quality than Canon latest ones. Is it true at all?
        Thanks again.

  • sathish

    Hi Nasim,

    Awesome your tips & articles! Really simple and clear words. But I suggest you to include at least one tip in each of your article for a P&S guy too…:)

    And here is my query –
    I own “Nikon Coolpix l820 P & S camera”, which I recently bought.
    I always got a blurred shot of my kid, EVEN when she was slightly moved.

    I approached a Nikon dealer to know if something wrong with my camera. He said if I take such moving snaps with FLASH ON, I don’t get such blur. I tried, and yes I am not getting blur shots, great tip he gave..!!

    BUT not all the shots I can take with FLASH ON right? Sometimes I may even need to take nice natural shots without flash. Please advice me with a TIP to snap the moving subjects without flash with my “Nikon Coolpix l820 P & S camera”.

    I sometimes worry if those mobile cameras are clever and delivering clear shots than these precise cameras.

    Thanks & Regards,

  • Aanand Saha

    Hello Mr. Mansurov. I was reading up on Bokeh and came upon your site. I am glad I came. Love all your pictures, especially the ‘Harris’s Hawk in flight photo.
    I am graduating from a point-and-shoot. I am Interested in buying the Nikon D5200 body and the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G as my first lens. I am not buying the 18-55mm kit lens. This combination is a bit above my budget so am forced to think about a D3200 + AF-S 50mm f/1.8G instead. The difference in the price of the two combinations is almost US$180 as the D5200 body costs almost 60% more than the D3200 body.
    Would appreciate if you can clarify a few things for me.
    1. Will picture quality differ a lot between the D5200 and the D3200 for the same lens? for example the bokeh effect, if I am using the 50mm f/1.8g.
    2. Although I am really interested in photography, I will not be upgrading my camera or investing in really expensive lenses on a regular basis. The thing is I like clicking pictures. Thats all there is to it. So I want to ‘invest’ in a camera which will help me keep on learning for a long time and will also not become obsolete at the drop of a hat. That is why I am confused between the D5200 and the D3200.

    I know these are silly queries but would appreciate your suggestions.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Binu

    dear Aananad;
    What is the price for Nikon AF-S50mm f/1.8G lens?

    • Aanand

      Approx. Rs 12,000 ($ 200)

  • Kunni

    Wonderful sharing really thank you so much Sir

  • Hrishikesh

    Hi Nasim Sir,

    I am using Canon D1100 with 18-55 lense.

    Is it possible to take Bokeh with it.

    And thanks a lot for sharing such good information.

  • keli


    I have a question: I have inherited my Dad’s Nikon (D40) He has 2 lenses, I am trying to use them to take some Christmas pictures of my children, but my issue is that when I blur the lights in the background, my object is also out of focus, when I adjust the lens the object is so close to me and I cant get the other props or more than one of them in the shot at once. I don’t know what I am doing wrong? I know the bare minimum about camera’s and photography. I learned from reading to set the aperture low, but on my camera it only goes down to 5.6, I’ve seen Bokeh photos with full length frame, that’s what I’m trying to achieve, just need help….please! Thanks, Keli

  • keli

    The lens I was using said (55-200) on the top, the other lens is (18-55) wasn’t sure which one I should be using for the Bokeh effect…thanks!

    • DaNewPhotographer

      I don’t have the exact same set-up my 18-55 goes to 3.5 If I move close to them (as close as it will focus, or as close as I can to get everyone in the picture, I get some alright to fair bokeh effect. However, it is not as good even close to being as those pictures shown above. I am going to order a more appropriate lens ASAP, you may need to do the same.

  • DaNewPhotographer

    Just wanted to say thanks for the information. I have always wanted pictures with everything was in focus. After reading this and looking at the pictures I can completely see what you are talking about. Took some of my own with the kit lenses and did as you suggested. I can see the difference. Now I need to go and find some new glass that will further improve my picture quality.

  • matt

    I have the EOS600D and am using the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens. Only just new to this and am trying to obtain max. bokeh. The pictures i take are for sneakers on feet and the aim is the capture the sneaker whilst having creamy blur to the background. Any tips? I need to keep the picture square to fill the Instagram picture space when uploading, and not having any gaps or borders etc.

  • randee

    Can I get a blurred background using a nikon coolpix I820

  • Andrew


    I’m looking to get a Sony Cyber Shot HX300 instead of a DLSR camera since it seems to be more of what I’m looking for in a camera. I’ve considered a Sony A58 or possibly an A65, but I keep coming back to the cyber shot… Can you speak to any such “bridge” cameras and the kind of bokeh I should expect?

    Should I go for the DLSR? Is Sony a good brand because I really like a lot of their products and most reviews I’ve read on their cameras are positive.


    • http://www.serenux.com Jeff

      I just recently bought myself a Sony Alpha 3000 as I’m just starting to get into better photography too.

      The included 18-55mm kit lens produces some good bokeh, but after seeing some reviews and example pics, I bought myself a 50mm fixed lens as it had a greater max aperture than the kit lens (model SEL50F18) and the results from this lens are amazing to say the least – much nicer bokeh, though the lack of zoom means I need to position myself for the shot better, but I’m getting used to that now.

      Learn the manual functions of your camera and behold even better shots with greater depth (bokeh in both the foreground and background).

      I’m still learning but now the aim is to perfect technique and achieve some great nature shots like shown in this article.

  • http://thebluefruit.blogspot.com HnRM

    I just used this article as a reference on my blog….with all due respect…

  • vaisakhan


    is Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G or Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G good for bokeh ?

  • Amit

    Can any one help me advising below
    1) D3200 18-105 mm will help me to take blurry image and how to take best blurry image?
    2)If not which lens would be better to take blurry image?
    Your suggestion will be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  • http://www.csfalcao.com Cesar S Falcao

    You can do fantastic bokeh effect using LensBlur, read my review http://www.csfalcao.com/app-review-lensblur/

    • http://www.serenux.com Jeff

      Where’s the fun in doing fake bokeh with an app???!

      • http://www.csfalcao.com Cesar S Falcao

        Hi Jeff, I think the app is marvelous in 2 cases: you don’t have the proper lens/cam at hand, or you have a focused photography previously shot. In both case you can have now high quality “bokeh” applied, an option you didn’t have before (only in Photoshop CS6 and CC). What do you think?

  • arcee abang

    good day sir… can you give some advice for my d5100 on how to make a good bokeh and I also bought AF-S NIKKOR 50mm 1:1.8g….
    I wanna take a good shot of flowers and birds…
    thank you in advance

  • vtcyclist

    Although I’ve been using a SLR for over 40 years, until recently I’d never heard of bokeh. Yet it seems to make its way into articles and conversations more and more. So I google it. And read a bit. This article seems to be a clear explanation of the effect. Thanks.

    However, like the wine people, called cork sniffers, that painfully detail every perceived undefinable nuance. Or the electric guitar cork sniffers that believe a “tone” only comes from the correct, usually unattainable wood covered in only the thinnest of lacquers that was last available in the 50’s, this bokeh thing seems to be another totally subjective topic that is undefinable, except by the higher price and exclusivity of the lens.

    Oh well.

  • Minew

    cool nice

  • imran

    I am using Nikon D 5200

    Can you please advise how to get Bokeh?


    • mitch bayerowski

      I couldn’t agree more, good article, but I would also state the term “bokeh” is really a silly word being used recently for some reason for the venerable terms,” depth of field”, or” depth of focus”, which each lens achieves through it’s focusing on a primary subject, and leaving the others in “circles of confusion”, I never use this term with my students, having taught photo since 1980’s, it being my passion since the 60’s, I countinue to use the term” depth of field”, using the circles of confusion analogy, with a pinhole camera only giving one perfect depth of field since the light coming off the subject is not turned into cones of light needing focus, but stay as straight light rays, therefore all hitting the film plane evenly and being equally in focus.
      Anyone looking to learn depth of field, get an old film camera, load some film, use the depth of field chart on the lens, read articles on photo prior to 1970, and learn to take an image one at a time, thought out, then move to digital, you’ll find you’ll actually learn the value of what Cartier-Bresson calls “the decisive moment”, the essence of photo.

  • Jeff Parkes

    Thanks for the in depth description, it was very useful to see and to know that what I’ve been doing for years has a name. I’ve been in the film and video business for years and the term Bokeh is one i’ve not heard.
    I have a Canon 5D Mark III with several lenses but prefer the 24-105 f4 that came with it. I’ll look into the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 you suggested. While on a job in Maui took a picture of a King Frog using the 24-105 f4 at night lit only by a walkway lamp, it has become one of my favorite mistakes. I say mistake because I took the picture while walking back from the bar, and couldn’t remember what the settings were that I used to make it look the way it did. I’m familiar with depth of field and that a smaller aperture will give you a sharper overall image and a large opening will give you less depth of field. When you mention the f1.8 it concerns me because each of the lenses I have are f4, will this be tougher in daylight to create Bokeh?
    P.S. I’ll forward the King frog if you like.

    • mitch bayerowski

      The lens length has a lot to do with it, f/4 on a moderate telephoto i.e 100mm-180 will still give you poor depth of field, also the distance from your subject, hence that’s why “street photographers” love wide-angle lenses 28mm or so with their great natural built in depth of field, it’s really simple when you think about it the light rays have to travel less distance to the film plane or sensor, hence hitting more at a point thus creating greater sharpness of image, as you get a longer length the distance to travel is more, thus making focusing more critical to get on of the cones of light to hit at a point.

      • mitch bayerowski

        I’t be nice to see the final photo

        • Jeff Parkes

          Thanks for the quick response.
          What would be the best way to send it to you?

  • mitch bayerowski

    Post it here on the site so everyone can see the results

  • Mindrinos Dimitris

    I thing the best canon bokeh lens its 135mm f2 http://photographic.gr

  • raghu

    I have Nikon D5100 with 55-300mm lense how can i create good bokeh with this combination ….? please help me with this …….!

  • b.g.shanker

    Your articles are very nice and thanks for the same..

    I have Nikon D3000. I feel comfort in Pass port size photos. However I want to improve myself and now have an idea to go for either Nikon D-90 or Nikon D-5300..

    Kindly suggest me the better camera of the two. here this is b.g.shanker from India tamilNadu Kumbakonam.. I prefer the answer in my Email please

  • Davide Syrett

    Awesome explanation of Bokeh and examples to help. Professionals like you help more than you know!

    Im currently looking into taking my hobby into something more and im looking at a potential portrait lens for my nikon d5200.
    Im toying between the 50mm f/1.4g or the 85mm f/1.8g (as im not made of money,,,unfortunatley).

    bokeh looks awesome in both, any advice would be much appreciated?!

  • beko

    How can I get bokeh with my nikon d5200 18-55mm lens ??
    Plz help me :(

    • Foosa Noble

      I have the same camera and lens.
      here is a picture I took, set on apature mode f/stop to 4.5 and manual focus,.
      Practice practice practice….our camera is capable of amazing things..

  • Jason MarketingArtGallery.com

    I was content with my nikon d5300 + 18-140 VR lens.

    I didn’t give any thought to the corresponding aperture numbers. I didn’t even give a second thought to whether i had beautiful or ugly bokeh.

    This article has changed me forever.

    thank you for sharing. this website needs ads

  • Bob Bishop

    Great learning place. Everyone talks about their Nikons but I have the Sony Alpha A-57. I like the camera but need a prime lens. Which lenses do you recommend I try? The 18-55 doesn’t cut it any more. I love composing my photos in the camera, thus like the convenience of a zoom. Also, would you please clue me in to some wide-angle zooms that still will render good ‘bokeh’?
    Thanks, Bob

  • isabela

    the lowest aparture of my lens is f/3.4 How can I get a bokeh? Because I’ve tried and I couldn’t do it

  • P Strickland

    Excellent article!!! Very helpful.