Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bokeh in Portraits

Bokeh, the beautiful discs of color and light in the background
of a photo really adds SPARKLE to a portrait.
To learn how to create bokeh using your aperture
When shooting portraits, I often use a wide aperture
between f/1.4 and f/3.2 to create lovely bokeh.
The depth of field (How deep the range of focus in front and back of my focus point.),
is so narrow in the photo above, even her shirt is blurred.
In other words, the depth-of-field was so narrow...her shirt
which is within inches of the same plane as her face is not in focus.
I shot this next photo with my aperture wide open at f/1.4 on my 50mm lens.
This creates a pretty, dreamy look. 
The sliver of focus with an f/1.4 aperture works
because the subject's face is straight at the camera...
thus the facial features are on the same plane of focus.
I also shot at f/1.4 in this next photo, but the subject's face is at
a slight angle.  This meant the eye on the left is a bit further from the
focus point and with the very narrow depth-of-field, that eye is slightly
out of focus.
So, if you're shooting at such a wide aperture, make sure your
subject's face is straight at the camera or you will get facial blur.
Or, close down the aperture a bit to f/2.8 or f/3.5 to get a deeper depth
of field and thus a focused face when it's at an angle.
When taking portraits, look for light sources in the background.
That's why I love to backlight!
In this next case, the light source is the water with
lots of glittery light reflections.
Distance from the camera to the subject also determines depth of field.
The further away the subject, the more depth of field and thus less bokeh.
If you are shooting wide and not seeing much bokeh,
move your subject further away from the background.
Even winter, with no leaves on the tree, can be a wonderful time
for bokeh.  Just make sure there is light in the background!
The glints of light off snow also creates bokeh!
Create some DAZZLE in your portraits by capturing BOKEH!


  1. I wonder if my lens is broken because I try to do this on my 50mm 1.8 and I can't even get the blurred background. Yet you are talking about things like an eye being out of focus. I shoot 1.8 for everything. Even large family portraits and everything is always in focus. Do you have any ideas?

  2. Hi Connie,

    Depth of field is also determined by the distance you are from your subject. The farther away, the more depth of field. You will get more in focus if you are shooting farther away and your subject is closer to the, the trees or whatever is creating the bokeh. Try having your subject stand further away from the background...especially if you need to stand back for a wider shot.

    In your family portraits is everyone on the same plane? If so, they will all be in focus even at 1.8. When shooting groups, I determine the aperture by how many planes of people to make sure they are all in focus.

    Is it possible that your camera is set at f/18 rather than f/1.8? I have actually done that and wondered why I didn't have the bokeh! Hope this helps.

  3. Jill,
    You are amazing and I'm very thankful for your support and education you provide! I am new and still have so so much to learn. I enjoy your guidance and videos! :)
    Thanks again,