Bokeh definition: How do we define Bokeh? The closest english word would be ‘blur’ but that covers too much territory. (Blur could refer to the effects of motion in photographs)

Japanese photographers recognize Bokeh as equal and just as important as the sharp ingredients in a photograph.
How do you pronounce bokeh? Bo and Ke come from two Japanese characters which mean “out of focus blur”. The word really should be boke but that would lead to mispronunciations the H is added and bokeh is pronounced bo as in boat and keh as in Ken.

In the west we have always concentrated on the sharpness of lenses and tend to ignore the bokeh effect in photos. But fuzzy is fuzzy isn’t it? How could one fuzzy picture be different than another? Very different indeed. As different as one lens is from another. Even lens of equal sharpness will form unique bokeh images.

Beautiful boke softens objects in front of the line of focus and loses the detail in out-of-focus backgrounds but retains the shapes and tones. Bad bokeh presents chopped up patterns of light and dark,distracting blobs etc.

Naturally there are disputes around the best  bokeh lenses. Although I didn’t know the existence of the word I find i’ve been creating bokeh for years. Since the early eighties I’ve been shooting with a Leica (first an M2 then M4 and now an M6) and the lens of choice has been the Summilux-M f/1.4/35mm. Almost all of the photos on the blog have been taken with this lens.I’ve alway liked low light photgraphy and this lens wide open gives the best bokeh. Previously I used a Nikon F and the best Nikon bokeh lens was my Nikkor f/1.8/105mm. (probably one of the best lenses Nikon ever made). And since I do like shooting in the dark (almost) you could call me mister bokeh or bokeh bob. I still live mainly in the past so you’ll have to go to other blogs for listings of the best  lenses for bokeh.

It’s possible to shoot in the brightest light and still achieve Bokeh by using a neutral density filter to open the lens diaphragm.
Some examples of bokeh:





Of course, you can create Bokeh digitally with various plugins. Alienware makes a photoshop plugin that simulates a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 or a Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro.They claim that their plugin will decrease depth of field and yield a Bokeh texture. Is this fake Bokeh or bad Bokeh? I don’t know-what’s real Bokeh?

A semi-practical use for my 10,000 historical photos