The term “bokeh” usually refers to two things: both the blurred background in the pictures, and the nature of this blurry background. Blurred backgrounds are usually associated with a professional, “cinematic” shot, so it’s not surprising that they are of such interest to photographers. How to make beautiful bokeh, we understand this text.
What is bokeh
Lenses that give beautiful bokeh
How to work with a fast lens
How to get beautiful bokeh on a kit lens
How to Get the Most Blurred Background on a Kit Lens
So, bokeh is either the degree of background blur, or the way the background fades into blur.
With the degree of blur, everything is clear. When shooting any subject, the background can be either as sharp as that subject or more fuzzy.
An unsharp background is considered optimal for portrait photography, as it separates the person well from the background.
As for the nature of the blur, this is a more subtle matter. If greatly simplified, bokeh can be smooth or jittery. An even one separates the model from the background better, but can create the effect of photo wallpaper, a nervous one, on the contrary, connects the object and the background more, but can make mess and visual dirt in the frame. The nature of the blur depends on the optical design of the lens and often on its quality and cost.
There are lenses that give a very distinctive bokeh pattern. For example, “Helios-40” with its twisted bokeh.
Lens pattern: what is it, how to use
The main parameter that is responsible for bokeh is the lens aperture. The larger it is, the softer the background will turn out.
The second is focal length. The same dependence: the larger it is, the stronger the blur will be.
The matrix of your camera also affects the blur. The larger it is, the more the background is blurred.
Lenses that will definitely give good background blur (for full frame):
– Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM. A portrait lens from Canon’s top L‑series. It turns out a high-quality sharp image even at an open aperture;
– Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM is a fast aperture portrait lens. It is slightly darker, but much cheaper than the previous model;
– Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. Classic high-aperture “fifty kopecks”. Gives a beautiful blur of the background and at the same time high sharpness. There is a more budget version with aperture ratio of 1.4;
– AF‑S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G. Expensive, fast, professional. Correct round highlights in the blur area and soft pleasant bokeh included;
– AF‑S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G. Slightly darker, but also more budget-friendly portrait lens;
– NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G. Top almost “fifty dollars” from Nikon. The focal length is slightly different from today’s classic 50 millimeters and sends us back to film times;
– AF‑S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G. A more budget lens with a classic focal length of 50mm. It has a slightly worse autofocus than the NIKKOR 58mm. In addition, this lens gives a less sharp picture. But, in general, this is a good working “glass”;
– Sigma AF 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. Quite heavy and decent “fifty kopecks”. Gives good sharpness and beautiful blur. There are modifications for different systems;
– Sigma 50–100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art. The fastest telephoto lens in existence. The only big minus is the weight, which is about one and a half kilograms;
– Sony FE 85mm f/1.4. Top portrait fifty dollars with calm bokeh and a convenient control system from the rings on the lens;
– Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. More budget version for Sony.
For cameras with a cropped matrix, there are also decent fast lenses. But it is important to remember one thing: the size of the matrix directly affects the level of background blur. The picture that a 1.4 lens will give on a crop will roughly correspond to that of a 2.0 lens on a full frame.
Fast lenses for Canon, Nikon and Sony fit perfectly on crop. You just need to take into account that the equivalent focal length will increase one and a half times. That is, 50 mm turns into 75 mm. Therefore, fast fixes for cropped cameras of these systems are not very common.
Lenses that give good background blur (for crop and micro 4/3):
– Sigma 56mm f/1.4;
– Viltrox PFU RBMH 85mm F1.8 STM;
– Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4;
– Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2;
– Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8;
– Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8.
A big plus of crops and cameras of the Micro 4/3 system is that often the optics for them are much cheaper than for their full-frame brothers. And at a relatively low price, they give good sharpness.
Getting a beautifully blurred background on a fast lens is quite simple. To do this, it is important to ensure that the diaphragm remains open. It’s best to forget about auto mode and work in aperture priority.
Another problem that a beginner may encounter is focusing. When shooting on a light “glass”, it is important to focus accurately, otherwise there is a risk of getting a picture with a sharp background and a blurry main character. Read more about how to solve such problems, we wrote in this text.
If in this question you are veiledly asking “how to get the same blur as on a Canon EF 85mm f / 1.4L IS USM for 150 thousand rubles, on a lens that costs five thousand”, then the only honest answer is no way. It’s impossible. If it were possible, everyone would use it and not overpay for a fast lens.
There are areas where you can find a life hack and hack the system, but this, unfortunately, is not the case. If you really like blurry backgrounds, your best bet is to look at budget fixes with small apertures. They may not be as jingly sharp and not as fast in autofocus as the top ones, but still allow you to achieve a blurry background.
For example, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor, 7Artisans 35mm F0.95, Meike 50mm f/1.7. The last two will not have autofocus, and, of course, all of the lenses listed will lose in quality to expensive “glasses”. But you can use them as the first fast lens: just to get to know each other and understand if you need it.
Okay, there is no opportunity to buy expensive light “glass”, there is a whale lens. Let’s try to get the most out of it.
Place the model as far away from the background as possible. If you put it on a cliff against the backdrop of an endless sea, it will blur better than a wall that will be a meter away from the model.
Unscrew the zoom to the maximum and move away from the model. The longer your lens, the more blurry the background will be. But the further you have to move away from the model.
Set the aperture to the lowest possible value in this situation. Remember that the most important thing in the art of blurring the background is an open aperture. If you are working in an automaton and the camera covers the aperture itself, all other tricks will have no effect.
Focus on larger portraits and details. The larger the portrait, the greater the background blur level.