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How To Create Blurry Backgrounds: Exploring 'Bokeh'.

I must be honest here, I had never heard the word 'bokeh' until I followed my desire to create 'blurry backgrounds'.

I have given myself the task of creating pleasing bokeh with sharp foreground images.

One of the photography techniques which I have always admired is the ability to have a nice sharp image in the foreground with a blurry background. I decided to gain as much knowledge as I could about the subject and to experiment with the technique for myself. I do realise that I am limited by my lenses but am reassured by the number of writers who suggest that this technique can indeed by learned and achieved using only a kit lens. So here goes...

First of all I have to learn about aperture. I understand aperture as the opening through which light travels, and the wider the opening, the more light I get. My kit lens is limited to f3.5 while other lenses can go to f1.4. When I have a wide aperture, i.e. shoot at the lower end of the scale, I get a good depth of field - sharp image in the foreground, blurry background.

I used the widest aperature f3.5, and focused on the raindrops on the leaves. The background and the flower bud are both blurred.

In this photo Pickle's face is in focus but the books in the background are blurred, as is the rug at the back of the picture.

Creating 'Pleasing' Bokeh

Part of the journey to becoming better at photography is becoming my own critic. Neither of the images above are acceptable as good photographs but they do provide a source of learning. In photography, it seems, the old adage 'you learn by your mistakes' is certainly true. Each photo provides its own teaching points and my task is to take note of the mistakes and improve next time. What I have discovered is that I do like this area of photography and would like to create pleasing bokeh, therefore some research into an appropriate lens is in order!

In this image I used my feet to get as close as possible to the subject, which resulted in quite a blurry background.

I enjoy this type of close-up photography but realise that my lens limits how close I can get and how clear the resulting image will be.

I have read conflicting advice on lenses.

Some writers advise beginning photographers to get to know their kit lens before buying any new equipment, and to concentrate on finding out how to operate the camera properly.

Others suggest finding out what type of photography you want to do and buying lenses accordingly, claiming that it is really the lens, rather than the camera, that makes the most difference to an image.

It might even be more accurate to paraphrase Hozier and say, it's not the camera it's the photographer that makes the real difference, and no matter how good the equipment, a bad photographer will take a bad photograph!

Having said all that, I have spent some time with my kit lens and have explored its possibilities. I can see that it will have a place in my camera gear for some time to come, I certainly have not outgrown it, but I would like to explore the possibilities of zoom.

My blog post Do You Really Need To Replace Your Kit Lens? details my first venture into buying additional lenses.


It's not the song, it’s the singing It's the heaven of the human spirit ringing It is the bringing of the line It is the baring of the rhyme It's not the waking, it's the rising.

"Nina Cried Power" Hozier, 2018


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