Mike Johnston, the editor of Photo Techniques magazine popularized the term in three articles back in 1997. Since 1997, the word Bokeh has shown up in American photography books. The origin of the term actually comes from Japan. It comes from the Japanese term boke which means “blur” or ”haze”. The Japanese used this term to describe a sense of mental haze (yikes!)
For a photographer, bokeh is the beautiful blur or “aesthetic quality of blur” in your background when you use a shallow depth of field (not mental haziness!) You might ask, “Jaime, why would I want part of my image to be out-of-focus?”
Good question. The goal of an out-of-focus background (or bokeh) is to make your subject stand out (or Pop!) like this adorable 10 week old English settler puppy I photographed last month. The dog pops! right out of the picture. The blur in the background creates a sense of dimension and “separate-ness” of the two subjects (background + foreground).
Bokeh is really a blur of light or a circle of confusion, which is covered in Chapter 3 of the Photography book used for the Certified Professional Photographer Exam. Ideal bokeh or a circle of confusion has blurred edges of light, not sharp-edged circles. Light enters your lens and lands on your sensor. The lens focuses light on your sensor as cones of light. If your sensor is not exactly where the cone of light reaches its smallest point, then you have a disk of light instead of a point. This disc is called your bokeh or circle of confusion. (Houston, we have liftoff!)
What questions do you have about bokeh and the circle of confusion?
Comments + Questions are always welcome!