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Bokeh; How to Get a Blurry Background

What is Bokeh?
atwellBokeh is a derivative of of the Japanese word “boke” that means blurr, haze. The first question to address, is why you would want the background of your subject to be blurred out? The common thought for most people when shooting photography or video is to have a fully clear and in focus image that showes all detail. But when professionally shooting, the goal is to blurr the background out order to get the subject to “pop”. Bokeh brings the subject to the forfront and makes sure all other distractions in the background are blurred out. At the same time this process can create some neat abstract imagry in the background. Especially if there are fixed points of light in the background. Sometimes you can capture some neat light ringlets or patterns. Bokeh can create some really visually appealing artistic effect. The next question is, how do you acquire this blurry background effect?

The Importance of Aperture

5011052457_cc2aec27f5_oThe number one way to acheive this is through a lower apature. A lower f-Stop is the tool or measurment you need. You need to set your camera to M or manual mode. Now you can change the f-stop on the lens. If you have a good lens, such as a prime lens or a constant apeture lens; you can aquire this effect. What you need to do is lower the f-stop to f/2.5 or lower. Remember though that the lower the f-stop the harder it can be to manually focus and keep the subject in focus. Again, a f-stop of 2.5 or lower is really great for shooting to get Bokeh.

You’re going to need plenty of light to shoot in. In order to get a clear image. If you’re shooting video outdoors be careful. You’ll need to bump up your f-stop to compensate for the intense light of outdoors.  In this case you’ll loose some Bokeh. When shooting for pictures you can run your shutter stop up. This way you can block out some light and keep your f-stop low to keep the bokeh.

Depth of Field

bird-197052_1920The other way to get Bokeh is to get physically closer to your subject. You can get closer by physically moving closer or you can use a long zoom lens. This autimatically reduces the depth of field. Shallow depth of field is what gives the look you want. Depth of field is “what subject matter is in the range of focus”. This is why the f/2.5 works. This measurment is going to give you the shallow depth of field you want. Drawing closer to the subject automatically does this. Getting closer to the subject physically changes the dynamics and allows for the Bokeh you desire.

What if I Want my Background in Focus?

There may be times when you want to show the subject and a fully focused background. To do this, simply set the aperture to a higher number. You’ll just have to test and see what works your situation. In an average sized room, f/8.0 ought to work. The higher the f-stop, the higher the depth of field. Thustly the more of the image you see in the view finder will be in focus.

I hope this helps you aquire the Bokeh and blurr you want. For any questions let me know!

Lenses to Consider for Photography and Videography Part 2

camera-158471_960_720In the last post I reviewed my list for choice zoom lenses for photography when dealing with church media. Of coarse if you desire you can use that same list for church videography. But to get into the art and craft of videography I suggest you use prime lenses. Of coarse primes can be used for photography too, but primes don’t allow as much flexibility.

Prime lenses are defined as: one that has just one focal length only (in contrast to a zoom lens that covers a wider range of lengths).

Prime lenses come in a wide range of focal lengths from wide angles through to the very longest of tele-photo lenses used by many sports photographers and paparazzi. 

Maximum Aperture – one of the biggest arguments used by prime lens lovers is the speed that prime lenses are able to offer. For example, in the Canon range the fastest lenses available are all prime lenses (down to f/1.2) where as in the zoom range f/2.8 is as fast as you’ll get.

Quality – traditionally prime lenses are known for their advanced optics and quality. They generally have less moving parts and so manufacturers are able to concentrate their efforts on adding quality glass and menanisms.

Keep in mind however that just because it’s a prime lens doesn’t mean that it is going to be of the highest standards. Manufacturers make a range of lenses at different price point (zoom and prime) and some are always going to be better than others.-Digital Photography School.com

In my own words, a prime lens is a lens with a singular focal length. A zoom lens covers multiple focal lengths. Prime lenses don’t have any moving parts so you can have more glass thus resulting in higher quality lens. You also have faster glass with prime lenses. Faster glass means that the lens can be set at a low aperture in any setting. Another words you will be able to have your settings be on f/2.8 (there about ) no matter the lighting condition. In short it has a better aperture range. Having stated that; the reason I say Primes are more for videography is because they demand that you plan your shot. You don’t have the flexibility of a zoom photography lens. Primes require more time and attention to craft. They bring out creativity and purposeful shooting.

Let me also preface here by saying that the primes in this list are meant for Cannon DSLR cameras. No matter what your brand is you can get similar prime lenses for your camera brand. My list of prime lenses for shooting includes:

  • Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens $599

  • Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens $549

  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens $110

  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens $369

Again you can get more expensive lens’s for DSLR but I find this is an adequate list. 24mm is a nice wide lens to use as your landscape shot or opening shot. It’s a great way to establish the scene. The speed of the lens is 2.8 so that is a nice aperture to be able to shoot at in any lighting condition. The 35mm is a great medium wide lens. Again it is also really fast giving you a lot of options when shooting and creative control. The nifty 50 is the 50mm lens. Surprisingly it is one the cheapest lenses that you can buy anywhere! The lightest and best prices lens you will ever buy. 50mm is decently tight and makes a good medium range shot. Finally the 85mm is a great close up glamor shot. With a 1.8 top speed, your going to get some gorgeous bokeh. Booked of coarse is when your foreground or focus image is in prime focus and your background is blurred out completely. It’s best seen when you have lots of light behind your subject. With a fast aperture you can get really pretty images.

Here is some example of the background being blurred out.