What Is Bokeh & How Do You Say It?

What Is Bokeh & How Do You Pronounce It?

One of the biggest trends right now in photography is the addition of Bokeh to our images. So, what exactly is Bokeh, why do we like it so much, and how do you correctly pronounce the word?

What Is Bokeh?

To put it simply, Bokeh is the blur, or visual softening, of the background in a photograph. However, when we talk about Bokeh, we are less concerned with if there is background blur, and more interested in the quality of the blur: How much blur is there? What is the shape of the blurred objects? How does the blur add to the quality and interest of the photograph?

Just like Goldilocks, Bokeh is best when it is just right. Too much Bokeh can be off putting, while too little can leave the viewer wondering what part of the image they should focus on. 

How Is Bokeh Created?

Bokeh is the result of a camera lens’ aperture, which is the size of the opening that allows light onto the camera’s sensor. A large aperture number results in a small lens opening, and a small aperture number results in a large opening. The aperture range, defined in f/stops, is different for every lens and camera sensor combination. 

Without getting too technical, a low aperture f/stop number results in a shallow depth of field, where only the subject of the photograph is in focus, and the rest of the image, including things in the foreground and background, are blurred and out of focus. The is great when you are shooting portraits or still lifes of your next meal. Also, because the camera opening is at its largest, more light is allowed to hit the camera’s sensor, meaning it has better low light performance. 

Take, for example, the iPhone 4. It features a single camera lens with an aperture of f/2.8 and s sensor that is 3.85mm wide. However, just because the iPhone 4 has an f/2.8 lens does not mean it can be compared to a standard professional camera’s lens that is also f/2.8, as the iPhone 4’s photo sensor is not 355mm wide, but 100x smaller at 3.85mm wide. Doing a little math shows the 35mm equivalent aperture of the iPhone 4’s camera is a 29.4mm f/21.4! This large aperture number means the iPhone 4 has a hard time taking an image with good Bokeh, or background blur, and it also struggles to shoot in low light situations. 

Note the difference in lens size between a DSLR camera and the iPhone’s camera.

Almost every smartphone sold today, including the latest and greatest iPhones and Androids, do not have the ability to create great Bokeh on their own due. Their tiny lenses and equally small sensors just can’t hack it without a little help from advanced software like LucidPix

Computer-Generated Bokeh

To make up for our smartphone’s physical inability to create Bokeh, we have invented software capable of creating artificial Bokeh. There are basic smartphone apps out there that requires the users to manually select what should be in focus and what should not be, then to manually blur out the background. Unfortunately, this takes a lot of time and skill, both of which we don’t always have.

LucidPix uses an advanced artificial intelligence 3D Fusion Engine to examine your photo and separate the subject from the background, creating a pleasing artificial Bokeh effect automatically, without you having to do any extra work! It just takes a single tap of a button in LucidPix and you have a photo with Bokeh that rivals the quality of $5000 professional cameras. 

Why Do We Like Bokeh So Much?

When photography was first introduced, it was celebrated for its ability to reproduce the world exactly as we see it. No longer were we forced to see a scene through the eyes of a painter—the camera removed all artistic creativity from the images it produced. They were, to put it simply, exact copies of what we saw at that point in time. Very little creativity was involved.  

Bokeh helps us add art back into photography. By using depth of field to choose what is in focus and what is out of focus, the photographer can creatively help the viewer understand what is important in the image and what is not, allowing the image tell its own story without the need for explanation. 

It’s also looks good! A photograph with pleasing Bokeh will almost always look better than one without it. 

How Do You Say Bokeh?

Many people are not sure of the correct pronunciation of the word Bokeh. It is originally a Japanese word that literally translates to English as Blur, so keep that in mind when saying it aloud. Officially, it is pronounced like  /ˈboʊkə/, BOH-kə, or /ˈboʊkeɪ/. Clear as mud, right?

“BOW-keyh”

The actual pronunciation of Bokeh varies from location to location. The most common way to say it is similar to the word bouquet, as in a bouquet of flowers. Instead of boo- in the beginning, we say bow- and instead of ending the word in an -ay sound, we end it with a slight h sound, as in -ayh. We also emphasize the first BOW- part over the second -keyh part.

In the end, as long as your version of Bokeh is close to everyone else’s, people will get the point. You can say boh-kuh, bok-uh, boh-kay, and maybe even bouquet, and most people will understand what you are trying to get across.

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