Fade to Bokeh….

The word bokeh, from the Japanese, boke, means blur, or haze. In photography it generally refers to the out of focus area in a photograph. As the out of focus area can be just as important as the in focus area, then the aesthetic quality of the bokeh produced by a lens is also important, especially when using a very shallow depth of field. Is it smooth, rough, circular, or some other shape? So the behaviour of the lens can have an effect on the overall look of the image.

Sometimes photographers choose to make the whole image unfocused, and so perhaps use lights to create shapes and patterns, or maybe to create a dream like look to an image that is different to soft focus. Of course this requires a lot of trial and error to find what you feel works.
Although i use a shallow depth of field in photographs at times, i’d not really put much effort into making fully out of focus images. Of the few i’ve taken over the years the odd one would work ok, but mostly they looked pretty awful. Having seen quite few great photos of this type on various sites over the last year or two, i had been thinking about trying it out. So a few nights ago as i walked away from an event on a local park i saw patterns in the lights from a combination of street lights, a hotel, and a “Big Wheel” that has been set up in the centre of town. I decided it would be worth having a go. But how out of focus should it be? How much blur would look best? I decided to take several photos at different focus settings.

Here are four images that roughly break it into four equal stages from focused to unfocused.


Full focus.


Roughly a third of the way through the focus.


Roughly two thirds of the way through the focus.


Fully unfocused.

So which works best? Do any of them work?
For me i think the second and third work best. Placed together it’s obvious one is blurring to the other. As an overall image i have to go with the second as i like that you can still see the scene.

I think a lesson learnt here is that it’s not just about de-focusing and image, it’s about how much you de-focus it for that particular image to work. In the past i’ve not really thought about that, and so it’s probably why most failed badly.


About PurpleT

Much of my photography is art and documentary. I try to capture a scene as i see it in my mind, whether that be black and white, colour, or somewhere in between. I try to make an interesting, and/or attractive image from what i see around me, not just what would be expected, but also subjects that would be seen boring, mundane, or ugly by many. But they all have an interest as art photography. I have also spent nearly twenty years working as a life model, then the human figure in art is very important to me, and is something i try to bring into my work at times.
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