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How bokeh transformed photography (and traditional art too)

Bokeh and its impact on art and photography
(Image credit: Simon's utak)

If you've ever taken a photo with a wide aperture, then you know the mesmerizing power of bokeh (opens in new tab). Enchanting photographers from all genres of photography, bokeh has not only transformed the photographic industry – it's also had an impact on the traditional art world as well.  

Bokeh is essentially the aesthetics and character of the out-of-focus areas in an image. You can create a shallow depth-of-field with any camera – as long as you have a lens that's capable of producing a wide aperture. 

• Read more: Best lenses for bokeh (opens in new tab)

A recent video from Youtuber Simon's utak, discusses how bokeh has affected the way photographers take photos. However, what's even more interesting is the impact bokeh has had on the photographic industry. Lens manufacturers are increasingly producing super fast lenses, such as the Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct lens (opens in new tab), as the ability to capture lots of dramatic bokeh is where photographers' attention seems to be focused. 

Vintage camera lenses have also seen a resurgence in popularity, with many modern photographers enjoying the unique bokeh shapes these retro pieces of glass can give them. 

Sony is another great example of a manufacturer that values how its lenses render bokeh. Whenever Sony releases a new lens, one of the main talking points is often the quality of the bokeh. The Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM lens is a great example of how Sony went above and beyond to produce a lens with pleasing bokeh. The rounded aperture blades and lack of chromatic aberration helped to produce one of the best portrait lenses (opens in new tab)

However, bokeh hasn't just affected the photographic industry – it's also impacted the art world and how artists produce content. In many cases throughout history, painters would consistently produce paintings that used a large depth-of-field. Almost everything in the piece would be in focus, just as the human eye would depict it. 

However, this has begun to change. Recently it seems that artists are more open to experimenting with depicting scenes with a shallower depth-of-field. 

Even camera phones these days have started to implement methods to produce a shallow depth-of-field. With the use of depth-mapping technology, the best camera phones (opens in new tab) can isolate subjects and blur out backgrounds. 

It's interesting how something like bokeh can have such a far reaching impact on the industry. The video linked above goes into great detail discussing some of the history behind this subject. 

Read more:

What is bokeh? (opens in new tab)
Bonkers bokeh! Canon 65mm f/0.75 is huge, impractical and heaps of fun (opens in new tab)
Zhongyi Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 review (opens in new tab)
Best lenses for portraits

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Usman is a commercial and architectural photographer based in West Yorkshire, who has been working professionally for over seven years. He has also spent over four years as a writer for the biggest photography sites in the world, including Staff Writer for Digital Camera World, senior staff writer for FStoppers, and tech writer for Petapixel. 


With a particular interest in technology developments, high-resolution imaging and the high-end cameras, Usman has been on the cutting edge of camera news as well as writing features about medium format systems and global shutters, and has reviewed some of the latest Leica cameras as well as a tripod that’s even taller than Andre the Giant!