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Bokeh Basics with Strobes - Photography Tutorial

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Published on Dec 18, 2014

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Bokeh is a look that you achieve when you open the lens wide open and allow the background lights to fall so out-of-focus that they become large circles, or ovals, of light. It is a wonderful way to create a romantic lighting situation and looks best when the lens is wide open. I want to make the background of my image a bokeh pattern and use a strobe light on the couple up front. I will use a double rim/key lighting setup with a strong fill as our lighting.

The couple will be quite a ways away from the lights so I have room to use a 200mm lens and allow the lights to go out of focus. I will add a fill light from the front, rim from camera left that will rim him and key her and a second rim/key from the camera right side to rim her and key him. I love the compression on these images. The 200mm lens makes this work.

I wanted to show how lenses can change the bokeh effect in the image so I did some shots on a 24-70mm Tamron lens. I don't like the background as much with this lens. I see more of the scene and don't get as nice of a look on the bokeh.

Just for fun I tried the Canon 50mm fixed focal length lens and shot at 1.2 aperture at 1/100 and 100 ISO. These are nice but the couple needed to be moved closer to the lights – too much background to be real nice.

Heading this direction and wanting to see more of the background, I put the 24-70mm Tamron lens back on and did some images at 35mm. This shows the whole scene including the sky and creates a very different look. This is about the whole scene and has very little bokeh – literally very small bokeh. These have the same exposure but the ambient light had dropped by the time I moved in closer.

This was fun to look at different lenses and the bokeh they create. I love the double rim and key light, it is one of my favorites. It’s great for a 2 person interview as well. I hope you have learned as much as I have in this experiment with strobes and bokeh. Keep those cameras rollin' and keep on clickin’.

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