Kevin McGloshen, KPM Photography


What is BOKEH?

Not sure how many of you fine people have found yourself reading a review of a lens and wondered, “bokeh, what the hell are they talking about?” Well don’t be alarmed, you’re among friends.

Basically, ‘bokeh’ (pronounced BOH-KAY) is a fancy word for ‘blur.’ That’s the long and short of it. Why we need another word for blur I’m not really sure, but the Japanese have words and sometimes we like to steal them. Maybe it’s to make ourselves feel more educated or sophisticated, but it just sounds like doctor-speak to me.

Generally, when people are discussing bokeh, they are describing how pleasing the blur is rendered by a particular lens. Depending on how a particular lens is constructed, points of light within the blurred area may appear perfectly spherical, or perhaps hexagonal, etc. I guess since people like to debate everything, why not debate the merits of different shapes created in a blurry background/foreground of a photo.

Bokeh is a relatively recent addition to the photography lexicon, cropping up in the late 90s in several technical books and magazines on photography. I would wager that most macro photographers would know the word, but most working professionals would not. Trust me, pro shooters don’t sit around the campfire and compare which lenses create the most pleasing bokeh. We definitely talk gear, but for me, I’ve never compared the merits of one lens’ blur over another.

Something about the word, bokeh, just makes me think of something you do in the bathroom … that requires a wipe. But I’ve been seeing the word pop up a lot so I thought I would add a little to the conversation. You can learn more about bokeh here.

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