creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh

Picking up your camera, shooting, and challenging yourself is the best way to improve your photography.  The Creativity Exercises within the Clickin Moms photography forum are a great source for finding new ways to challenge yourself.  On the first Monday of every month the wonderful Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to shoot with the exercise in mind.  While the exercises are ongoing, at the end of each month we choose a few images as the ‘Editors’ Choice’ and share them here with you on the blog.  How fun is that?!  Today we are sharing December’s exercise with you below!

creativity exercise | beautiful bokeh

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo
*image by Ashley Spaulding ‘Ashley’

The word “bokeh” is a relatively new term (in popular use for less than twenty years) derived from the Japanese word “boke,” meaning blur or haze. When we refer to bokeh, we’re usually discussing the aesthetic quality of that blur, often describing it in terms of shape, softness, or smoothness.

What plays into bokeh? Let’s take a look at some of the primary factors.

Large Aperture. The top factor is shallow depth of field. After all, if everything is in focus, there is no blur! With that in mind, shooting wide open is a key factor in producing bokeh. Try starting with your aperture between f/1.2 and f/2.8, depending on your lens’ capabilities.

Distance. Bokeh can also be produced by shooting very close up (as with a macro lens), which also yields shallow depth of field. When taking this approach, keep the distance between your camera and your subject significantly shorter than the distance between the subject and the background.

Background Highlights. Bokeh is most visible around “out of focus points of light,” such as specular highlights created by direct light (light shining through foliage, headlights on the highway, multiple light sources in nighttime urban areas, small light sources such as Christmas lights) or reflective surfaces (water, metal, glass, etc).

Lens Choice. Bokeh is also affected by the lens itself. Older lenses in particular are more likely to produce hard-edged bokeh (shaped octagonally, for example), though many new lenses have curved aperture blades to give bokeh a more circular appearance. Beyond aperture size and shape, certain lenses are often known for producing creamier, more beautiful bokeh. Among them are Canon and Nikon’s top portrait lenses (especially those that open to f/1.4 or wider), telephoto lenses, and macro lenses.

This month, let’s work on producing images that showcase creative and beautiful bokeh, using bokeh as a striking background for the primary subject or making the bokeh itself the primary subject or an important element within the frame.

editors’ choice!

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Congratulations to the ladies below whose photographs were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices!

Tara Stallings ‘taraj_00′:

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Emily Greenfield ‘emgreenfield':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Carly Bingham ‘CarlyBingham':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Kristy ‘kristabelle':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Andee Marie ‘andeemarie':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Lana ‘capturedbylana':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Elizabeth Sterner ‘elizabethclarkphoto':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Tracey Brown ‘traceybrown75′:

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Caryn Scanlan ‘CarynScanlan':

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

Thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!  We love seeing all the beautiful imagery!

Do you want to participate in the next Creativity Exercise?  Visit the forum here where Sarah has challenged us with the theme “The Unconventional Self Portrait“.  Don’t have a membership to Clickin Moms yet?  Head on over here to sign up!  You can still participate in this ‘Beautiful Bokeh’ challenge by either visiting the forum here or sharing with us in the comments below.  We’d love to see your work!

Sign up for a risk-free membership!

creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh photo

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27 Responses to “creativity exercise: beautiful bokeh”

  1. Jan 07 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    These are all so, so beautiful. I just love the angel in b&w with the subtle bokeh behind her.

  2. Jan 07 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Just beautiful!

  3. Jan 07 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    congratulations on being featured here, ladies!!! these are such beautiful images!

  4. Jan 07 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    I love bokeh, so I loved this creativity exercise! Congratulations to all of the ladies whose images were chosen as Editors’ Choices!!

  5. Jan 07 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    These are fabulous! Great article and congrats to the winners!! :)

  6. Jan 07 2013 at 3:31 pm #


  7. Jan 07 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    These are stunning and so inspiring! Congrats to all winners. I just love the one of Lana. Such beautiful golden and soft colors and an awesome expression on her face. She truly looks like a happy princess :)

  8. Jan 07 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    congrats, lades! beautiful bokeh, indeed!

  9. Kristin Dokoza
    Jan 07 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    Bokeh lover here! These are all just beautiful ladies, congrats!

  10. Tara Stallings
    Jan 07 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Gah, I’m in there, cool! Love all the shots!

  11. Jan 07 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    These are all fantastic! Congrats to all those featured! <3

  12. Jan 07 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    Thank you for the honor, CM! Congrats to all the ladies… beautiful, beautiful images!

  13. Jan 07 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    I am honored, thank you so much

  14. Jan 07 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    Congratulations to all ladies, gorgeous images

  15. kendra
    Jan 08 2013 at 12:12 am #

    congratulations!!!! These are all stunning!

  16. Jan 08 2013 at 7:25 am #

    Yay! So excited to be included in this amazing group of photos. Congrats to all. Tara – your tree on film was the first one to get me inspired to submit. Love it!!

  17. Jan 08 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Can I get a what what, hoo hoo, yip, yip?! How bout them apples?! Thanks for including my angel image! :)

  18. Tara Stallings
    Jan 08 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Aww, thanks Elizabeth!

  19. Randa
    Jan 08 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Every one…so beautiful!

  20. Jan 09 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Oh these are lovely!!! How’d I miss this gorgeous blog post?! Too hard to pick a favorite, but I sure do love the Eiffel Tower!

  21. Susan O'Neal
    Feb 04 2013 at 10:49 am #

    CONGRATULATIONS all — !! these are just beautiful & I LOVED seeing ‘someone’ I know & love very much — right at the beginning :-) I LOVE BOKEH — love it !!


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