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"Bokeh"-Amature Bling?
Old 01-01-2010   #1
Kouyoubushi
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"Bokeh"-Amature Bling?

Anyone else think that "bokeh"(really shallow DOF) is often the refuge of the unskilled/lazy shooter? I have seen many shots that, less shallow DOF, were completely unremarkable. Shallow DOF is a "tool" that like any other in your bag of tricks, is great when used judiciously, but becomes cliche when overused. A good photographer can coax a 5-star shot out of a mobile phone camera with a sensor smaller than the nail on your pinky toe. The cheap f/1.8 lens is awesome of course, but learning about lighting, timing, color, and composition are just as awesome, no?
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Old 01-01-2010   #2
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Whatever works
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Old 01-01-2010   #3
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I mostly agree! - overdone, overemphasised, and much discussed here, like the insistence that regular servicing ( CLA ) is an absolute necessity - it is a 'fad' of the last ten/fifteen years!
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Old 01-01-2010   #4
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Any photos to share ?
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Old 01-01-2010   #5
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Old 01-01-2010   #6
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agreed.
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Old 01-01-2010   #7
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Sometimes a shallow depth of field is hard to avoid, especially in low light conditions.
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Old 01-01-2010   #8
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Shallow depth of field is sometimes unavoidable and sometimes advisable: it is not always or even often a gimmick. I do not agree that an otherwise unremarkable photo can somehow be made "better" with less depth of field.
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Old 01-01-2010   #9
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I don't know about others. I had been largely out of photography for years, studying at Indiana University in the late 90's, and am getting back into photography... have been on and off but more on lately. Back then we DID talk about how out of focus areas, highlights especially, were rendered with different lenses... we never used the term Bokeh for this. We also talked about depth-of-field, plane of focus, etc. We talked about this a lot more than out of focus looks of each other's lenses.

I hadn't considered the word "bokeh" to mean only shallow dof, but rather how out of focus areas are rendered, For example a mirror telephoto lens has strange donut-like bokeh, and such-and-such favored (and expensive) lens has "creamy" bokeh. Someone's portrait has shallow dof throwing the room behind her out of focus because it is destracting to the main subject- that is not "bokeh".

I think that a lot of newer photographers, born of the digital age, become enamoured with shallow dof because their previous camera systems lacked the ability. But its a useful tool, depends upon what is appropriate for the subject- often less is more.

I agree the term is over-used, and appearantly now in a way not even the Japanese ever considered.
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Old 01-01-2010   #10
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Nope, you're 100% wrong. First of all, in professional portrait photography shallow depth of field has been used forever to isolate people from busy backgrounds. Certainly not a fad of the last 15 yrs.


Soft background makes the balloon more easily visible and gives it a sense of floating. This was used in a local magazine that used to use my work.

Second, as has been mentioned earlier, low light photos basically always have shallow depth of field unless the camera is used on a tripod with a very long exposure. I've done that at times when I did not want the background out of focus (doing architectural photography indoors, the whole scene has to be in focus to make the client happy).


Everything had to be in focus here. The architect who hired me needed this for his portfolio. Bokeh couldn't work here!


This looks nicer with the distracting tree branches out of focus.

I don't get people who don't understand that control of depth of field is an aesthetic choice that a photographer has, another tool. Its not an amateur 'bling', whatever the hell that is (where I live bling is fancy jewelry worn by drug dealers to show off their wealth). I am one of many RFF members who earns his living as a professional photographer. I've been doing this for 15 years now, I've been exhibited and published numerous times around the country and I have a degree in art and photography for what its worth. I can assure you that the only people who feel the need to bash others use of shallow depth of field are not pros, as we understand its a tool we can use or not use as needed. Go take some pictures and get some experience.
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Old 01-01-2010   #11
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I 100% agree with EVERYTHING Chris just said.
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Old 01-01-2010   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thebes View Post
I don't know about others. I had been largely out of photography for years, studying at Indiana University in the late 90's, and am getting back into photography... have been on and off but more on lately. Back then we DID talk about how out of focus areas, highlights especially, were rendered with different lenses... we never used the term Bokeh for this. We also talked about depth-of-field, plane of focus, etc. We talked about this a lot more than out of focus looks of each other's lenses.

I hadn't considered the word "bokeh" to mean only shallow dof, but rather how out of focus areas are rendered, For example a mirror telephoto lens has strange donut-like bokeh, and such-and-such favored (and expensive) lens has "creamy" bokeh. Someone's portrait has shallow dof throwing the room behind her out of focus because it is distracting to the main subject- that is not "bokeh".

I think that a lot of newer photographers, born of the digital age, become enamoured with shallow dof because their previous camera systems lacked the ability. But its a useful tool, depends upon what is appropriate for the subject- often less is more.

I agree the term is over-used, and appearantly now in a way not even the Japanese ever considered.
Exactly. When I got my 150/4.5 Apo-Lanthar in the 80s, a friend remarked that one of the great attractions of this lens is the way it renders the out-of-focus areas; that was before the term 'bokeh' came into use. And as Chris says, differential focus has been around forever, whether from necessity (low light) or choice. Anyone else remember the fashion photography of maybe 20-30 years ago (I forget exactly when it was) when 300/2.8 lenses were used wide open? Or Hollywood portraits from the 1930s, shot at 1/10 second on 10x8 at full aperture?

But I agree with the OP that the word appears to have been hijacked on occasion by some truly awful photographers who photograph cats or coffee cups and then invite you to admire the (even more boring) out-of-focus areas behind the sharp bit. Where I don't agree is that bad shots at 1/8000 at f/1 in broad daylight are improved by zero depth of field. Most are made worse.

Again, like Chris, I'd not call it bling.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-01-2010   #13
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Shallow DOF and the accompanying bokeh is perhaps THE most recognised and accepted technique in portrait photography and has been since Methusela played half back for the Jerusalem Jets. Well, perhaps not that long. But you are right in saying its but one of several aspects of good photography.
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Nope...
Old 01-01-2010   #14
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Nope...

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Any photos to share ?
...I'll openly and honestly admit to being a mediocre photographer who's currently shooting with what he's got (iPhone 3G) camera.
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Old 01-01-2010   #15
Kouyoubushi
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[quote=Roger Hicks;1224313]Exactly. When I got my 150/4.5
But I agree with the OP that the word appears to have been hijacked on occasion by some truly awful photographers who photograph cats or coffee cups and then invite you to admire the (even more boring) out-of-focus areas behind the sharp bit. Where I don't agree is that bad shots at 1/8000 at f/1 in broad daylight are improved by zero depth of field. Most are made worse.

Thanks for getting what I was trying to say rather than having a knee jerk reaction. I never at any point stated that no one should ever use shallow DOF, only that it is overused, often inappropriately. Naturally, portraits would be an instance where such DOF is totally appropriate.
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Old 01-01-2010   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
Second, as has been mentioned earlier, low light photos basically always have shallow depth of field unless the camera is used on a tripod with a very long exposure.
Wrong, or at least not entirely true - if you can use combined camera movements:

"Remember the Scheimpflug principle - lines drawn through the subject, lens panel and film planes should all meet at one point to give greatest depth of field" (Langford, M.J. Basic Photography. London/New York: Focal Press 1978, 4th edition, p. 108).

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Old 01-01-2010   #17
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Old 01-01-2010   #18
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>Whatever works

>control of depth of field is an aesthetic choice that a photographer has, another tool.

Case resolved.

I think, cause of issue is also spotted:

>a lot of newer photographers, born of the digital age, become enamoured
>with shallow dof because their previous camera systems lacked the ability.
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Old 01-01-2010   #19
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On further thought, maybe 'bling' is right.

Jewellery can be in good or bad taste, and adding lots of bad-taste jewellery will not make an ugly pimp or a drug dealer any more attractive.

Shallow d-o-f can be in good or bad taste, and adding lots of bad-taste out-of-focus areas will not make a bad photo any more attractive.

Cheers,

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Old 01-01-2010   #20
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Well, to me there is bokeh and bokeh. There is the coffee cup bokeh that melts away (C Sonnar):



There is a coffe cup bokeh that starts to be more structured (Planar):



and then there is the coffe table bokeh that starts taking over the picture (Summaron):



And finally a coffee table bokeh, that IS the picture (Summitar):



While initially I have been very much attracted to the Sonnar type bokeh, lately I am more intrigued by the bokeh of older Leica lenses. In fact, although I do not care at all for the f1.0 Noctilux's sharpness, I think this is the most interesting bokeh machine around:



Finally, I think that 99% of great pictures of this fellow (HCB) were sharp front to back ( at times I ask myself how he did it, considering that there were no high speed films available at the time). But in case of this shot, I really think that the blurred part is so good, that it could be a photo on its own - judge for yourself:

http://www.ldesign.com/Images/Essays...06/windsor.jpg
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Old 01-01-2010   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dotur View Post
Wrong, or at least not entirely true - if you can use combined camera movements:

"Remember the Scheimpflug principle - lines drawn through the subject, lens panel and film planes should all meet at one point to give greatest depth of field" (Langford, M.J. Basic Photography. London/New York: Focal Press 1978, 4th edition, p. 108).

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If you use movements you're using a large format camera on a tripod. Large format lenses are NEVER used wide open, most are not very sharp wide open, achieving their best at f22 and often used around that aperture IF movements are possible. In my example, no movements could be used because any swing or tilt would severely defocus something in the photo. my architecture pic was shot with a medium format camera and 45m lens at f16, focus at hyperfocal distance. Worked great, client happy, I got paid. I was happy too
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Old 01-01-2010   #22
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If you use movements you're using a large format camera on a tripod. Large format lenses are NEVER used wide open, most are not very sharp wide open, achieving their best at f22 and often used around that aperture IF movements are possible. In my example, no movements could be used because any swing or tilt would severely defocus something in the photo. my architecture pic was shot with a medium format camera and 45m lens at f16, focus at hyperfocal distance. Worked great, client happy, I got paid. I was happy too
Dear Chris,

Just to dot some i's and cross some t's

In miniature formats and MF there are TS lenses and Lensbabies, but I'd agree that you're normally using a tripod. And small apertures. And long exposures.

Actually, some LF lenses were designed so that they could be used wide open, and sometimes made a feature of this in their advertising: Super Angulons, for example (as compared with Angulons, where f/6.8 was definitely for focusing only). Then there are portrait lenses. And of course there's not much point in a 150/2.8 Xenotar if you're not going to use it wide open.

Even with studio shots with movements, there's sometimes an advantage in using lenses wide open: I do it sometimes with my 150/4.5 Apo Lanthar, reversing the Scheimpflug rule and shooting at wide apertures for a single line of focus.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-02-2010   #23
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Quote:
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.....is often the refuge of the unskilled/lazy shooter? ....
I would add that a long lens is the refuge of the enthusiastic but inexperienced photographer. A long lens plus bokeh.
Bokeh adds aerial perspective to a in image that otherwise has no structural perspective at all.

Last edited by downstairs : 01-02-2010 at 00:40.
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Old 01-02-2010   #24
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sure it could work Chris, Bokeh is (as far as i care) the OOF area which translates to what i used to call it when i was a kid (still do sometimes) "Blurred Background" or "Blurred foreground" (i didnt know the term Bokeh then) Due to and controlled by the DOF of course.

in that context the background area in the office picture cant start until outside the window because the subject is obviously the entire inside of the room from front to back ..so set the DOF distance to end outside the window and there is your "Blurred Background" OOF area or Bokeh

nice pic of the girl with the balloon btw
Thanks for the compliment on the pic of the little girl, I love it too. You guys don't normally get to see my commercial work here, but this thread was a good place for a couple of shots I got paid to shoot (as opposed to my artistic stuff that I shoot cause I want to then get paid of someone later decides to buy it).
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Old 01-02-2010   #25
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Quote:
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Dear Chris,

Just to dot some i's and cross some t's

In miniature formats and MF there are TS lenses and Lensbabies, but I'd agree that you're normally using a tripod. And small apertures. And long exposures.

Actually, some LF lenses were designed so that they could be used wide open, and sometimes made a feature of this in their advertising: Super Angulons, for example (as compared with Angulons, where f/6.8 was definitely for focusing only). Then there are portrait lenses. And of course there's not much point in a 150/2.8 Xenotar if you're not going to use it wide open.

Even with studio shots with movements, there's sometimes an advantage in using lenses wide open: I do it sometimes with my 150/4.5 Apo Lanthar, reversing the Scheimpflug rule and shooting at wide apertures for a single line of focus.

Cheers,

R.
Yeah I know about those lenses, but have never owned one. They're simply way outside my price range for something I would rarely need. I still have my 4x5 camera, I can drag it out of someone ever needs something that really requires movements.
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