It’s a word of Japanese origin used to describe the aesthetic quality of the ‘out-of-focus’ area of a photograph. Typically referring to the more visible ‘circles of confusion’ that are visible in shallow depth of field photographs.
To get the best bokeh possible, do this:
- Use a fast lens, with the aperture wide open.
- Shoot subjects that are close to the minimum focusing distance.
- Focus correctly. Having sharp, un-blurred areas in a photograph helps to make the un-focussed areas all the more beautiful.
- Use prime lenses. While zooms also can produce fine bokeh, prime lenses have the habit of producing bokeh with an ethereal quality. If you have a choice, definitely choose a prime lens.
- Bokeh shows up best when there are some light areas (or points of light) on a relatively dark background. In the case of points of light, they appear as circles of confusion, in other cases, it appears as a pleasing variation of light and shade, the tonality of this area affects the quality of the bokeh.
- Keep interesting shapes in your frame even though they’re out of focus. Often, these are called ‘out of focus elements’. They lend context and atmosphere to a photograph.