How To Achieve Nice Bokeh

Want to take portraits that have nice bokeh?  First, what is it?

BOKEH = noun.  a Japanese term for the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photographic image.

Below is a photo I took of my little Ava just the other day.  It is an example of an image with “nice bokeh”.

I focused on Ava’s face and blurred out the background, so you can’t tell she is standing on a sidewalk next to a parking lot!

HOW TO ACHIEVE NICE BOKEH (in plain English!)

1.  Use the right lens.

All lenses can create some kind of bokeh, but the REALLY nice, drool-worthy bokeh is from lenses with large apertures, like f/1.4 and f/1.8.

[I shot this image with a Nikon 85mm f/1.4.]

2.  Select a large aperture.

The larger the aperture (the smaller the aperture number) = the better the bokeh.  Usually f/2.8, 1.8 and 1.4 create the best results.

3.  Get close to your subject.

4.  Focus on what you want to have sharp.

I know, I know…. duh.  But there may be someone out there who isn’t sure!   🙂

4.  Put your subject far from the background you want blurred out.

In the image above, there is beautiful green bokeh because there were bushes on the far side of the parking lot.  I took the shot from a lower angle (shooting upwards) to purposely miss the cars in the parking lot, which were directly behind her.  The result is a deliciously smooth wash of color in the background, which makes it look more like Ava was standing in a meadow than a parking lot!



My favorite kind of bokeh is when there are little circles, which looks like I hung up holiday lights.  Love!

Sometimes I create bokeh in the FOREGROUND because it tells a different story…

Below are examples of images with NO BOKEH.

I love me some bokeh, but sometimes I want to see all the details, like the texture of these walls…

Hope that was helpful to even one person!  Happy shooting, my friends.



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  1. Florence

    Annie, this is another great post! Bokeh is also something I’d like to accomplish someday when I get the right lens. I’ve had a Nikon D5100 for about a year which I love. The kit lens takes great indoor shots of my kids, but I’d love to get a better lens for that dreamy bokeh look. Could you recommend an inexpensive lens for a Nikon user to start off with.
    Your work is amazing! I love your style. Keep it up!

    • Hi Florence,

      Thank you for your comment and nice compliments! 🙂

      A really fantastic lens that doesn’t cost very much (compared to the other lenses) is the 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm. They are both prime lenses with very large apertures. They are sharp and fast, and both under $500 (at least the last time I checked)! They definitely give you “the best bang for your buck”!

      Happy shooting.


      • Florence

        Thanks, Annie! I’ll check them out! You’re awesome!

  2. Cindy

    Thanks for sharing your insight. I love watching your beautiful art!