When I was first learning how to shoot photography I was always drawn to the beautiful images with blurry backgrounds. The point of interest would literally pop off the page when the background was slightly out of focus. This blur is referred to as Bokeh (pronounced bo-ka), and it quickly became my mission to learn how this was done!

(Photo credits left: Shoot Fly Shoot and right: Heather Bullard)

A lightbulb moment for me was when I learned that creating this effect was all about depth of field, and this was accomplished with the lens. So what is depth of field? In a nutshell, it refers to how much of the image is in focus.

• Shallow depth of field = A small portion of the image is in focus leaving everything behind, and in front of, the point of interest blurry.

• Deep depth of field = A large portion of the image is in focus. Meaning, more of the image is sharp and not blurry.

Shallow depth of field


(Photo credit Maria Carr)

Here’s another look at depth of field from a different perspective:

Notice how in the top example only the flower being focused on is sharp. This is a very shallow depth of field. Where as in the bottom example, almost all of the flowers are sharp and in focus. This is accomplished with aperture. So what is aperture? Aperture is just a hole, or opening in your lens that can be made wide or small depending on the situation.

I used to think that the more expensive the camera, the better the photographs would be. But the truth is, depth of field is all about what lens you are using. Different lenses have different apertures, and that’s where the magic starts to happen. We go into this in detail in our Photography 101 class, but the key thing to keep in mind is simply:

• The bigger the aperture opening = the more shallow depth of field

And that’s the trick to beautiful bokeh! Do you use bokeh when you shoot?