Bokeh portrait photography is a fun way to experiment with cool effects at little cost.
Bokeh is a word derived from Japanese that roughly translated means ‘blur’. It’s been adopted by photographers to describe the out of focus areas of an image, usually the background. The blurred parts of an image can be just as important as the main point of focus, and so it’s always worth checking to see how the bokeh looks.
Bokeh created by different lenses and aperture-blade combinations has different characteristics. You’ll need to use your lens’s widest aperture (such as f/2.8) to best see the effects. Fast prime lenses such as the Nikon 60mm f/2.8D used here generally give the best results.
Here, we’ve used the bokeh effect to create a bright background using a set of fairy lights left over from Christmas. By placing the lights a distance behind our subject and using a wide aperture, we threw the lights out of focus, turning them into circular blobs of colour to create this bokeh portrait.
Follow the steps below to create your own beautiful bokeh portrait.
How to make a bokeh portrait
Step 1: Position your lights
Small highlights often create interesting bokeh, so Christmas fairy lights are perfect for the job. Position them far enough behind your subject so that they will be thrown out of focus when shooting at a wide aperture. We attached ours to a piece of black velvet.
Step 2: Set a wide aperture
Switch to aperture priority shooting mode and select your lens’s widest aperture, such as f/2.8. A regular flashgun is fine to light the foreground, but add a flash diffuser and you’ll instantly reduce the harshness of the flash for more flattering results.
Step 3: Tweak colours and tones
So far this effect has been achieved entirely in-camera. However, a few tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw will help to boost the colours. Photoshop’s Healing Brush tool also comes in handy if, like mine, your subject has food on his face!
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