Fast lenses make for great bokeh.
You need a fast lens to create good bokeh effects. This means a lens that has an aperture that can be opened up very wide, which allows for much more light to enter the camera and expose the film or hit a digital sensor. Aperture is controlled by f-stops, which are the settings that determine the aperture’s width.
For narrow depth of field, place your object closer to the lens or a specific point of focus. It blurs everything else, which allows you to play with bokeh. For really powerful bokeh effects, choose lenses that have an aperture setting of 2.8 or below. Wide apertures of 1.8 or 1.4 are even better. It can be hard to create these with automatic f-stop adjustments and aperture priority settings, so it helps to go manual with this.
Remember, aggressive bokeh can often be difficult to adjust in editing, so think about editing your footage before you shoot. “Bokeh looks really cool, but at the same time, you won’t necessarily get the full image, which can limit options when you edit,” says Dougan.
Zoom zoom zoom.
Zoom and telephoto lenses are excellent tools for bokeh. With these lenses, you can create controlled zoom effects that allow you to rack focus (change the focal point mid-shot), allowing for some wild bokeh shifts. Change the focal length by selecting a different lens and you might notice that the quality of the bokeh shifts from lens to lens.
If you decide to use autofocus, which some cinematographers do, make sure that you have a defined focus area on your camera so the sensor knows where to prioritize.
Staging and lights.
To create bokeh that catches a viewer’s attention, you need to go beyond lenses. The staging and blocking of each scene in your video will determine the image that you capture with your camera. If you’d like light bokeh effects, make sure that you have a compelling arrangement of individual light sources in the background, or even create them yourself with a lighting kit.
When attempting complex movements where you’re racking focus and altering the depth of field mid-shot, rehearsing with actors and blocking out each scene will go a long way toward capturing good blurring during your shoot.
Bokeh in the video editing bay.
Equally as effective, though a bit more time-intensive, is building bokeh effects during the post-production process. Both Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects allow you to create focus pulls, bokeh effects, and more. But remember, when adding bokeh, think about how it complements and enhances the overall scene you’ve created.