5 tips for better bokeh

Stephanie Bryan Photography - 5 tips for better bokeh

If you love shooting at golden hour, you probably love bokeh. Bokeh typically occurs when you combine light with the out-of-focus parts of an image (it can also occur without light, but today we'll chat about bokeh as a result of light + out-of-focus points).


To achieve that dreamy, beautiful bokeh there are a few tips to keep in mind when shooting!

1. Filter your light source.

By using trees, bushes or taller objects to filter the sun, you will be creating "holes" where the sun can peek through to create beautiful bokeh. I love the way the light looks filtered through trees and am always mindful about where I place my subjects when shooting.

2. Separate your subject from your light source.

Instead of sticking your subject right up against the tree line (or whatever background you are shooting against), try having them stand away from the background. The more distance that is between your subject and the background, the more depth and bokeh you will achieve.

3. Shoot with a wide open aperture.

Shooting wide open (f1.8, f2.0, f2.8) will create a shallower depth of field and will help separate your subject from the background and will help create beautiful bokeh. I tend to always shoot wide open anyway because I love the compression and creaminess of a wide open aperture.

4. Use a longer focal length lens.

A longer focal length will create a more distinct bokeh. My go-to lenses are my Canon 35 L II and my Canon 135L. Both create beautiful bokeh, but the 135 creates the most beautiful bokeh ever because it is a longer focal length and has a greater compression rate. The two images below show the different between the bokeh on the 35mm and 135mm. The image on the left was shot with my 35mm and the image on the right was shot with my 135. As you can see, the 135 does have more haze when shot in backlighting, but the bokeh can't be beat!

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5. Look for unusual bokeh.

Keep your eyes open for light that could create beautiful bokeh. Street lights, strands of lights, christmas tree lights and other light sources can also create bokeh when you separate your subject from that light source. If you are shooting this light source alone (meaning without a subject in your frame), just switch your lens to manual focus and twist your aperture ring until you achieve a bokeh you like! 

Do you love bokeh too?? It's so dreamy and beautiful and makes for such a pretty element in your images! 


looking for more tips + inspiration?