Me want bokeh circles!!!

Many people are in love with bokeh circles. These are simply out of focus sources of light.


Bokeh Circles

Notice in this picture the red, white and yellow circle/oval shapes. I was out in the street when I took this shot. The white circles are probably the headlights of some cars; the yellow lights are probably the street lights; and the red circles are probably the rear lights of the cars.

A lot of people that start out in photography often ask this question. How do I get this? How do I achieve this effect?

This is actually fairly simple. Focus close and make sure there is light in the background. And it doesn’t have to be an actual light, it can even be a reflection. See below:



Notice that there are small bokeh circles around the rim of the salad bowl. This is because it is reflecting the light from above.

To maximize the bokeh circle effect, one of three (or all three) things must happen.

  • Firstly, you must focus closely onto something with the light source behind you. In the first case, I focused closely on the street sign pole. With the distance between the subject (the street sign pole) and all the light sources being quite large, the bokeh circles are quite pronounced. As with this second case with the salad, the effect isn’t as prominent due to the close distance of the closer edge of the rim of the bowl to the farther edge of the rim of the bowl.
  • Secondly, you must use a lens with a larger aperture. A lens with a larger aperture (opening) equates to a thinner depth of field (DOF). With a thinner DOF, the distance between the subject and the out of focus (OOF) light source is further. So if you use a larger aperture with your lens, you will get a more prominent effect. The first picture was shot wide open at f/2.8.
  • Lastly, you must use a lens with a longer focal length. By using a longer focal length (at least 50mm), you are able to make the bokeh circles more prominent.


Leave a Reply