This is something I see commented upon a great deal – Many people refer to boke, or bokeh, boʊkɛ… Whatever.
The Japanese word boke (ボケ) means something along the lines of blur/haze/fuzz – but it’s the quality of the blur which is being commented upon, not the fact that it’s there. All lenses do boke. Well, any lens which you can focus at any rate, with a few disclaimers.
Heres a few tips;
1. The larger the sensor the more pronounced the out of focus blur will be
2. The longer the lens the more pronounced the out of focus blur will be
3. The converse to both of the above statements is true
4. None of this will automatically dictate the quality of the boke – or what the blur feels like – that’s more of a judgement call and a matter of finding out what a camera is good for (that is to say – it’s a matter of taste and highly personal).
I love Holga’s for this – I tend to drill out the aperture plate to about f6 and modify the lens to focus closer 50cm so as I can get shots like this. The joys of 6x6cm frames, even fairly moderate apertures give nice depth of field on larger format cameras when you get nice and close.
This is a shot which would have been vastly improved by my limiting my depth of field – This was at 55mm and 5.6, which I had no choice about, it was a reaction shot – the magpie just popped in to ask me if I had any spare food going to waste – it didn’t stick around too long – At f11 the buildings in the background would have been sharp, which would be even more distracting – at 2.8 they would have been blurry and disappeared to a greater extent – At 5.6 they’re not too intrusive.
As an aside, for some reason a lot of magpies in Australia really seemed to like me, I don’t know if it was because I sat still or what – they’d just drop what they were doing and come and visit me, they’d go through my pockets if I let them – They wouldn’t go near other people, even if offered food, Crows seemed to be fascinated by me too (the fascination was mutual). I thank my lucky stars it wasn’t hornets.
Those two shots I just focused on something close and then recomposed – the first one is with a K10d (Brisbane city just after sunset – same view as the magpie shot above) – the second is with a mobile phone (no idea where) (and rather noisy now I look at it large)
These two (obviously taken at the same time) were taken in my mums lounge, the paint on the wall is a warm mint sort of colour (quite a nice colour actually) – one had shadow behind hence the change in background colour.
You can use a supplementary lens to achieve this sort of effect – this is a wide adapter for a mobile phone shoehorned onto a point n shoot which has been modified to see infrared. It’s kinda boke… Sorta.
Pro tip – hold a bit of plastic in front of the lens to get interesting lens flare – Sorta boke, infrared with a really nasty lens – nothing was actually in focus, so it’s hard to judge the ‘out of focus quality’.
Pinhole photos have infinite depth of field, but they’re typically blurry, it’s just physics, sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. As an aside, I just now finally saw the rabbit that people commented on years ago (10 years now I think of it – I wonder what they’re up to).
Digi infrared, a poked lens, and taking a snap out of a car window at 100kph – Technically awful, but I do like this shot.
This has blur as an integral part of the shot, but it’s not properly a boke shot as such – In the background is a row of trees and a park, but all I wanted was a nice mid tone to make the spider web on the window 30cm away pop. Taken with a Canon 760d with an 18-135 kit lens at 135mm & 5.6.
Classic boke shot – even got the cherry blossoms. Panasonic GX1 with a 25mm 1.4 cctv lens, probably at something more like f2 to control the backlighting, the boke is a bit squirrely, but that’s not a bad thing – the branch is at about 30cm and the tree is maybe 1.5m away.
The opposite – smaller aperture for depth of field – I wanted depth of field here so I stopped down and focused out a bit. This is taken just out of Alice Springs in central Australia on a rare rainy day. It’s normally a very very arid landscape. Pentax K10d 18mm f6.3
Big head little car – Small aperture, large depth of field. – Oh, that’s Richmond in QLD Australia – Dinosaur capital of Australia – they have fantastic dino head rubbish bins and a waterskiing lake (which is pretty odd given it’s the Aussie outback and thus dry as f^*k).