What does bokeh mean?

As a product photographer, or any other commercial photographer for that matter it is likely you have heard of and understand the term bokeh. It is a relatively simple concept to understand and for the more experienced photographers, it isn’t a challenge to create. However, where many fall down is making sure they create the best possible bokeh for the product, story and brand image.

We’ve tackled what bokeh is below, along with some top tips on how to create bokeh for your next photography project.

So let’s start with what bokeh means

In its most simple form, bokeh describes the concept of creating a smooth, quality background blur in any kind of photograph. This is generally the case when shooting a subject with a shallow field depth. The goal here is to not only create a greater focus on the subject itself but also create a pleasing feel to the overall image.

It is very common for a commercial photographer to use this technique when shooting close up portraits and outdoor shots.

This technique started to become a popular tool for every product photographer in the mid-1990s and over time has become part of many successful product photography campaigns.

How to create bokeh for your photography

There are some helpful guides out there on how to create bokeh as a product photographer but we’ve summarised the key steps below to help you get started.

Step 1: Choosing the right lens

The most optimal lens for creating bokeh normally requires an aperture of f/2.8 or more. The reason for this is that it helps you to easily create more background blur.

Step 2: Go for a wide aperture

If you want to set up your shoot with a target of creating bokeh then you should set your aperture to as wide a setting as possible (for example f/2.8 or f1.8). By doing this, you will make the depth of field shallower.

Step 3: Set up the scene correctly

It doesn’t matter how great your equipment is or the settings you use, you need to make sure the scene maximises the potential for bokeh. This includes being as close to your subject as possible and the background as far away as you can. This isn’t always possible as a commercial photographer so it requires balance.

Step 4: Go for a focal length that is longer

The focal length helps with creating bokeh and the general rule of thumb is that the longer the focal length, the better the bokeh.

Step 5: Maximise lighting in the background

Creating bokeh doesn’t just mean blurring the background, it requires you to create a smooth, well-lit background that looks engaging. This is where lighting comes in so try to use points of light that enhance the overall image.

Summary

As you can see, there is a little more to bokeh than simply blurring the background. By thinking carefully about the scene set up, the equipment used and lighting options you can add fantastic value to an image as a product photographer that your customers will love.