A current challenge in the Treasure Hunt group is to shoot an image that illustrates "bokeh", which has been defined in various way, but is usually considered to refer to the quality of the out of focus areas in an image. Definitions and discussions of bokeh can get very technical, but I've seen it described as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light" and also as "the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph." If you have a dSLR, achieving pleasing bokeh is not too difficult. With interchangeable lenses you have more options for controlling aperture and a wide open lens is crucial for attaining bokeh. A dSLR user may have a dedicated macro lens and/or a 50mm lens, either of which will likely enable them to shoot with apertures as wide as f/1.8 or even wider. With apertures like that, a nice shallow DoF is more easily obtained, as is good bokeh. The subject can be tightly focused and the background thrown into a pleasing blur.

But what if you don't have a dSLR? Can you still achieve good bokeh? Well, you can come close. Here are some tips and a few illustrations shot with my old Olympus P&S (7.2 megapixels!) which I hope will help you get good bokeh in your pictures.

1. Shoot in aperture priority mode. Get out of auto mood - it's imperative to be able to control your aperture. Remember, the smaller the f-stop number, the more shallow the DoF and that's what you're aiming for. Here's a shot taken at f/2.8 with my P&S. As you can see, the paint brushes are sharply focused but the room in the background is thrown out of focus:


2. Get in close to your subject matter. You may find that putting your camera into macro mode will be useful. Here's a shot of a plum tree blossom. I don't have the EXIF data for this shot, but judging by how close up this is, my guess is that I was in macro mode. The f-stop on this shot was also f/2.8:


3. Whatever is benind your subject matter should be some distance behind it. Within reason, the farther the better. P&S cameras are basically designed to try to get everything in the field of view in focus. That's because most people use a P&S to take pictures where they <i>want</i> everything to be in focus - think landscapes and family photos - so you need to be selective about the placement of your subject matter. The shot below was taken at f/5.0. Notice how there's nothing behind the flowers for quite a distance. At f/5.0 the lens just isn't able to have everything in focus.


And here's one at f/8.0. Not as good as the shot above I think, but you get the idea I hope.


And what about those sparkly bokeh lights you see in images? Make sure the lights are in the background as you compose your shot. That is, shoot towards the lights and then use all the tips above. Good luck and have fun! Tips from other photographers on how to achieve good bokeh are very welcome!