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What makes great bokeh?
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:14 pm    Post subject: What makes great bokeh? Reply with quote

What, in *your* opinion makes great bokeh... creamy, swirly, smooth, buttery, bubbly, coarse, hashy, glow-y, busy, edgy or some complex, image specific combination of any or all of the above?

So many of the vintage lenses lauded for their bokeh, have *technically* terrible bokeh rendering, but act as a creative effect when used in a way that emphasizes those characteristics. Is this "good" bokeh?

Do you think the current fascination with extreme bokeh like "swirly" bokeh will fade?

Are you a purist (bokeh is *only* created by the optic) or are bokeh-like effects added in post OK?

Is it "bokeh" or "boke"?

Does bokeh quality make or break Images for you?

Images as examples are welcome!


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The one that suits the scene.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

calvin83 wrote:
The one that suits the scene.


Oh man, is that a cop-out Wink


So, my preference in most of my own images is for smooth bokeh that transitions from focus to de-focus in a way that draws the eye to the sharp part of the image, *without* erasing all detail of the OOF part. I find that my Bronica ETR series system has this sort of bokeh by default (even the wide angle glass) and if I had a dedicated darkroom to process roll after roll of 120 film without excessive cost, that would become my main camera system. Next best in my experience is the Minolta 35mm f/1.4 on a FF digital, which has the ability to render images with smooth transitions and that 3D effect that detailed images with this sort of bokeh often display.

I'll confess to being fascinated by "special effect" bokeh as generated by various vintage (or purpose built) optics and many of them are genuinely fantastic, though I feel like there can always be too much of a good thing and right now there's a lot of blown out, bubbly swirling bokeh floating around out there. I also feel like sometimes, this sort of effect is an artistic crutch, an easy way to give an average image an extra degree of "wow", much like the Instagram filters I loathed when *everyone* was slapping them on any image posted to the hip-to-be-square alternative to real photography http://theoatmeal.com/comics/state_web_spring. Yes, Instagram has gotten better since then, but it's still not a favorite of mine.

On the topic of shaped aperture inserts: in my opinion they are the star filter of the 2010s... suitable for use in images you're going to put on your home-made holiday greeting cards. (sorry, yes that was disdain)

I have seen defocus simulations applied in PP that look decent, but on average they're just another effect that makes an image look more contrived (IMO).

The Japanese coined the term, so "boke" is correct, but the common usage variant is fine too.

For me a great image isn't dependent on a particular bokeh character, but it can certainly be enhanced by the right bokeh... and images can be elevated to greatness by creative use of bokeh.

In short it's all subjective...


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm so old fashioned that I never thought about it. In the old days nobody seemed to care. I still can't get the hang of bokeh pictures.

There was focused and unfocused, and though people have been making good use of shallow DOF forever, the nature of the defocused bits was not relevant.

So in my case I can honestly say I have no preference. I still worry much more about the parts that are sharp, or are supposed to be.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

awa54 wrote:
calvin83 wrote:
The one that suits the scene.


Oh man, is that a cop-out Wink

...


I disagree strongly with the unnecessary judgement. Saving grace is providing an example of the answers sought.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

visualopsins wrote:
awa54 wrote:
calvin83 wrote:
The one that suits the scene.


Oh man, is that a cop-out Wink

...


I disagree strongly with the unnecessary judgement. Saving grace is providing an example of the answers sought.



Please take note of the wink emoji... my comment is meant in good fun.

I'm familiar with Calvin's Flickr stream and he uses many vintage lenses with many differing bokeh characters, frequently using that character to the advantage of his compositions. I have to assume that there is some personal preference or other deeper thought behind his body of work.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks David for giving me a credit on my photos!

I don't define bokeh as either good/bad/great as it won't help me to take better photos. I do observe how the bokeh change at different focus distance, different lighting, different objects and etc. The more you know the lens, the better you use make use of the bokeh.

There is one important thing to remember: the front bokeh(bokeh in front) of a lens can be very different to the back bokeh.


Last edited by calvin83 on Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:25 pm; edited 1 time in total


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bokeh definitely is personal taste. But I think most people agree that it should be from the lenses, not from post-processing.

To me especially lately, I've been enjoying those with painterly quality.

My reason being:

* Smooth/buttery bokeh is kind of easy to achieve (long focal length, or wide aperture, or focus very close). It often enhance the picture, but in terms of bokeh, what's there to see?
* Swirly or bubbly are fun once in a while, kind of like fisheye pictures.

Painterly bokeh has the most variety and potential to add flavor to or even to become part of the picture. Think about it this way, what kind of pictures involving bokeh would you like to print and hang on the wall? I just started a flickr group (not limited to manual focus lens)
https://www.flickr.com/groups/painterly_bokeh

Feel free to drop by, join, and enjoy each other's work.

BTW, great pictures can have NO bokeh at all.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

eno789 wrote:
Bokeh definitely is personal taste. But I think most people agree that it should be from the lenses, not from post-processing.

To me especially lately, I've been enjoying those with painterly quality.

My reason being:

* Smooth/buttery bokeh is kind of easy to achieve (long focal length, or wide aperture, or focus very close). It often enhance the picture, but in terms of bokeh, what's there to see?
* Swirly or bubbly are fun once in a while, kind of like fisheye pictures.

Painterly bokeh has the most variety and potential to add flavor to or even to become part of the picture. Think about it this way, what kind of pictures involving bokeh would you like to print and hang on the wall? I just started a flickr group (not limited to manual focus lens)
https://www.flickr.com/groups/painterly_bokeh

Feel free to drop by, join, and enjoy each other's work.

BTW, great pictures can have NO bokeh at all.



I stated that smooth bokeh is something I like and strive for in my images, but realize that it isn't the right ingredient in all cases! It's also not practical to achieve on a regular basis, since many lenses can't render that sort of bokeh under any conditions and even many of the optics which do create super-smooth transitions can't do so in every image.

Probably the only bokeh character that I actively dislike and attempt to avoid (and which can actually spoil an image for me) is the really jittery, sharply outlined type that I've gotten from the Sigma 90mm f2.8 macro and Minolta AF 24mm f2.8, this look can rear its ugly head in complex zooms as well. I feel that it distracts from the subject, a visual dissonance if you will (though I often enjoy dissonance in music), that throws the mood of the image off.

And I totally agree that fully sharp focus can make an image better!


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:30 pm    Post subject: Re: What makes great bokeh? Reply with quote

awa54 wrote:
What, in *your* opinion makes great bokeh... creamy, swirly, smooth, buttery, bubbly, coarse, hashy, glow-y, busy, edgy or some complex, image specific combination of any or all of the above?

I've seen good use of all types of bokeh and I've seen bad use, so it really depends on the scene, for me the situation dictates what works best, sometimes I want an interesting effect, other times I want the background obliterated, and yet other times I want everything in focus...
I sometimes use it as the subject, other times I use it as a Yang to my subject's Yin, it's my vision for the image that dictates to me what should be there.
Quote:

So many of the vintage lenses lauded for their bokeh, have *technically* terrible bokeh rendering,

I disagree with that statement, you'll have to show me the rules for good bokeh, of which there are none, and since what you may consider terrible, others will consider it interesting, it's not as simple as in-focus vs out-of-focus.
Quote:
but act as a creative effect when used in a way that emphasizes those characteristics. Is this "good" bokeh?

Bokeh IMO isn't about good or bad, more or less, it's about the texture or feel it provides, does that texture help or hinder the picture/subject?
The only "Bad" bokeh IMO is when it looks busy or nervous.
Quote:
Do you think the current fascination with extreme bokeh like "swirly" bokeh will fade?

No, it's always been there in photography and even in paintings, we're just more aware of it as a thing now.
It's just another tool in the repertoire of the photographer.
Quote:
Are you a purist (bokeh is *only* created by the optic) or are bokeh-like effects added in post OK?
It depends on if it looks natural or not, if no one can tell, does it matter? I don't think so, unless it's reportage, then it does matter. Smile
Quote:

Is it "bokeh" or "boke"?

I honestly don't care how it's spelt or how it's pronounced, it's what it does to a picture that counts.
Quote:
Does bokeh quality make or break Images for you?

It can.
Quote:
Images as examples are welcome!

http://forum.mflenses.com/bring-forth-the-wonder-that-is-flare-t70815.html


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thick glass, also cemented elements (Sonnar) and of course large glass / speed are the factors.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:57 pm    Post subject: Re: What makes great bokeh? Reply with quote

Well Said Lightshow!


in reference to:

Quote:
Quote:

So many of the vintage lenses lauded for their bokeh, have *technically* terrible bokeh rendering,


I disagree with that statement, you'll have to show me the rules for good bokeh, of which there are none, and since what you may consider terrible, others will consider it interesting, it's not as simple as in-focus vs out-of-focus.


In stating that a lens might have "technically bad" bokeh, I'm using the criteria that a laboratory lens test might, in that those lenses display artifacts of uncorrected optical aberrations that are strongly evident in the out of focus areas. ...not saying that those lenses can't have visually pleasing bokeh.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

awa54 wrote:
eno789 wrote:
Bokeh definitely is personal taste. But I think most people agree that it should be from the lenses, not from post-processing.

To me especially lately, I've been enjoying those with painterly quality.

My reason being:

* Smooth/buttery bokeh is kind of easy to achieve (long focal length, or wide aperture, or focus very close). It often enhance the picture, but in terms of bokeh, what's there to see?
* Swirly or bubbly are fun once in a while, kind of like fisheye pictures.

Painterly bokeh has the most variety and potential to add flavor to or even to become part of the picture. Think about it this way, what kind of pictures involving bokeh would you like to print and hang on the wall? I just started a flickr group (not limited to manual focus lens)
https://www.flickr.com/groups/painterly_bokeh

Feel free to drop by, join, and enjoy each other's work.

BTW, great pictures can have NO bokeh at all.



I stated that smooth bokeh is something I like and strive for in my images, but realize that it isn't the right ingredient in all cases! It's also not practical to achieve on a regular basis, since many lenses can't render that sort of bokeh under any conditions and even many of the optics which do create super-smooth transitions can't do so in every image.

Probably the only bokeh character that I actively dislike and attempt to avoid (and which can actually spoil an image for me) is the really jittery, sharply outlined type that I've gotten from the Sigma 90mm f2.8 macro and Minolta AF 24mm f2.8, this look can rear its ugly head in complex zooms as well. I feel that it distracts from the subject, a visual dissonance if you will (though I often enjoy dissonance in music), that throws the mood of the image off.

Even though it's my least favorite type of bokeh, I've seen good use of this bokeh type...
There was a thread on good use of nervous bokeh, I can't seem to find it right now. Sad
Quote:
And I totally agree that fully sharp focus can make an image better!


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A good photographer Wink


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kds315* wrote:
A good photographer Wink

Laugh 1


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like smooth bokeh.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do love bokeh, but it is like saying I love food. Liver tastes good - others will disagree. Add onions and it's even better, or is it worse?

While maybe there is not an accepted definition or consensus view on what is perfect bokeh, I think a creamy version is what was in mind when the term bokeh was coined. I don't remember the funky, unusual types being so appreciated until recent years. I do happen to like the funky stuff in most of its forms. The busy, nervous type, if I'm thinking of the same as others, is one I do not care for very much.

Some kinds of bokeh are more appropriate for certain photos and not others. While people do use swirly and bubble bokeh for portraits, I think a creamy type is best for formal portraits. When it comes to flowers, I like interesting blur effects. You see, it is both a judgment and a matter of taste.

I have over the past year (plus) taken an interest in mirror lenses. Few lenses are criticised more for bad bokeh than mirrors. However, even with mirrors, both pleasing and horrible bokeh can occur. But sometimes the bad bokeh in one photo can be good - or suitable bokeh in another picture.

I've always pronounced the word as bo-ka. I hear some people pronouncing it bo-kay. While I do use the word when speaking of blur, I still wonder if we are misusing or overusing the term. My initial understanding was that the word was meant to describe background blur. Today, I hear it used as a substitute for the word blur. If it was meant to describe a type of blur, wouldn't saying good bokeh be redundant? We could say good blur. I wonder if its true meaning has been lost in translation.


PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2018 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

https://blog.mingthein.com/2012/02/26/a-word-or-ten-on-bokeh/
Quote:
The term is a derivative of the Japanese word boke, which doesn’t really have a good translation into English. The closest we can get is ‘the nature/ character of blur’. It’s certainly not quantitative in any way

I use it in the same way I would use the word texture to describe something.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
And I totally agree that fully sharp focus can make an image better!

I don't think so for certain scenes.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some interesting background reading on the term Bokeh, especially how it became common usage in photography.
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/01/what-is-bokeh.html


PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

calvin83 wrote:
Quote:
And I totally agree that fully sharp focus can make an image better!

I don't think so for certain scenes.


On a side note, I find good or better sharpness in the subject focus area to be enough in most cases (though some images are definitely best when they exhibit maximum sharpness), however moderate to poor sharpness is a huge disappointment for me... areas that are *supposed* to be out of sharp focus are a whole other subject.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What makes good Bokeh? About 2 bottles of red.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kds315* wrote:
A good photographer Wink



Like 1 Like 1 small


PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about a couple of examples? Bokeh I like and bokeh I don't care for. In the following examples, the same lens was used for both shots, and in both examples, it was wide open. The lens is a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 SSC Aspherical. The images are dupes of Kodak Elite Chrome slides, taken with a Canon F-1.

Bokeh I like:


Bokeh I don't like:


In the first photo, I was close to the subject and the closest background items were several feet away In the second photo, obviously there is little or no separation between the subject and the background. So totally ineffective bokeh. Even the stuff in the deep background is giving way too busy bokeh for my tastes. Thus, a shot I really don't care for.

More examples of bokeh I like:

Canon FL 55mm f/1.2:


Canon FD 300mm f/4:


Bokeh created by panning. Canon FD 200mm f/2.8 IF:


Vivitar S1 28-90mm


Tamron SP 80-200mm f/2.8 LD


Tamron SP 90mm f/2.5 Macro (the tan colored background is actually a brick wall)


Tamron SP 60-300mm


PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok gotcha, so you like long focal lengths shot at large apertures, or short focal lengths with great subject distance from the background.
I can dig it.