Bokeh, what it is

I have been reading a lot about different digital camera lenses in my research on image sharpness.  There are words that you hear so often that it can get a bit annoying – meaningless words like “tack sharp.”  Another term that keeps cropping up is “bokeh.” If you read a lot about photography you’ll keep running into it as well.  So I thought that it might be worth defining it.

Bokeh is the aesthetic use of out-of-focus regions of an image to create pleasing effects.  It is caused by the depth-of-focus, or lack there of, of the lens.  Take a look, for instance, at my picture “Lady Slipper,” in my “Cabinet of Nature Gallery.”  I could have photographed against a dark black uniform background; but instead the out-of-focus Windsor chair and other elements of the background add aesthetically to the image.

The word “bokeh” comes from the Japanese word “boke,” which means “blur.”  The (h) is added so that we remember to pronounce the (e).  Usually it is pronounced as “boh – kay” but sometimes as “boh-keh” – but never as boke (rhyming with broke or bloke).  Remember this the next time you are in a genuine pizza shop and ordering a calzone.  Italians have never met a silent (e).  Calzone is not like school zone.  The (e) is pronounced like “cal-zo-nay.”  Mangia!

This entry was posted in Technical Aspects of Photography.

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  1. By Windy | Hati and Skoll Gallery on November 7, 2013 at 7:03 am

    […] points: love the rule of thirds, love the color similarity of dog and dock, love the out of focus bokeh of the sea. Great stop action.  Then there is a certain ambiguity about how the dog feels.  Is he […]