Bokeh

Bokeh is Japanese (boke, ボケ 味). "blur" or "haze" is how it translates. In photography, bokeh is defined as the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens; "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light".

Bokeh should not be discounted as it is often a large part of the image.

Good bokeh is low in contrast creating a smooth blend of the out-of-focus parts of an image and the out of focus highlights do not have a halo around them. Bad bokeh is busy and distracting, taking away from the overall image.

good bokeh
good bokeh
good bokeh
good bokeh
bad bokeh
bad bokeh

Do not be concerned with onion-shaped bokeh highlights because this is caused by the cylindrical nature of a lens and is not indicative of good or bad bokeh. This is like looking through a paper towel roll, and as the roll is moved from one side to another then the image seen through it is seen as onion-shaped.

The shape of the diaphragm can have a negative affect on the bokeh highlights. For example, a diaphragm that forms a heptagon will have highlights shaped as little heptagons.

bad bokeh highlights
bad bokeh highlights

Bokeh is produced by circles of confusion.

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