Bokeh – How to Make Portraits Pop!

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (ボケ), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji, the “blur quality.” Bokeh is pronounced BOH-Kə or BOH-kay.

~According to Nikon USA’s website.

Bokeh is a technique that generally gives portraits a pleasing aesthetic while drawing the eye towards the subject–making the model pop out. The trick is to have a lens that can open up to at least F 2.8 or wider (e.g., F 2 or F 1.4). These wider apertures are referred to as fast apertures.

So, making a portrait with bokeh (soft blurry background) using a DSLR can be as simple as:

  1. Setting your camera to aperture priority.
  2. Adjusting your aperture to F 2.8.
  3. Having your model stand in front of a wall with the wall about two metres behind them.
  4. Focusing on the model and then clicking.

Check out the examples below.

Portrait using wide aperture — more bokeh

Portrait using narrow aperture — little bokeh

Happy bokeh-ing!


  • Feature image: talent – Tara; location – Surabaya, Indonesia.
  • Aperture examples: talent Wiet; location – Aletheia Backhouse in Ubud, Bali.

Bali Street Photographer Icon

By mark l chaves

freelance photographer ∙ writer ∙ web developer

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