What Is Bokeh? Blurry Photography Effect Explained

Bokeh on Brighton clock tower
(Photo: Dominic Alves/Flickr)

The beauty of the blur

You may not have heard of bokeh before, but once you learn what this hallmark of photography is, you'll begin to notice it everywhere.

To put it simply, bokeh is a photographic term used to describe the aesthetic character of light in the out-of-focus portion of an image. The word is derived from the Japanese word "boke," which means blur or haze.

This phenomenon is sometimes accompanied by prominent "bokeh balls," which are the disc-like aberrations rendered from unfocused points of light. See the hundreds of hazy lights descending from the clock tower in the image above? That is bokeh.

The key to incorporating this lovely effect into your own photography is to shoot with a shallow focus and a large aperture setting. This technique is useful for photographing all kinds of situations, including portraits, food, nature and much more.

Scroll down for more gorgeous examples of the limitless possibilities of bokeh!

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Bokeh and spider web
(Photo: dorena-wm/Flickr)

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Bokeh dog
(Photo: Charlie Stinchcomb/Flickr)

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Bokeh and heron in water
(Photo: Takashi Hososhima/Flickr)

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Bokeh and autumn leaf
(Photo: florence richerataux/500px)

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Bokeh and Florida Panther, Willow
(Photo: Catie Leary)

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Bokeh and flowers
(Photo: seyed mostafa zamani/Flickr)

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Bokeh and albino rattlesnake
(Photo: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr)

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Bokeh in a field with a man
(Photo: /Flickr)

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Bokeh and lounging cat
(Photo: 55Laney69/Flickr)

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Bokeh behind orchid
(Photo: Anna Norris/Flickr)

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Bokeh and sea birds on rocks
(Photo: Jim Frost/Flickr)

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Bokeh and plant glowing golden
(Photo: Anne Worner/Flickr)

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Bokeh and bee on a flower
(Photo: jenny downing/Flickr)

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