Tips in Using the Bokeh Effect for Night Photography

Night photography is challenging unless you are using an action cam that allows you to capture pictures at night. Not only is it quite tricky to find the perfect subject for a particular theme, but it is also hard to shoot without a good source of light. However, there are some photography techniques that you can apply to capture beautiful photos. One method that you can use when shooting at nighttime is the bokeh effect. It is a photography term used to describe the blurred circles in the background of a photograph. These out of focus light sources look aesthetically appealing. That's why many nighttime photographers use this effect to make stunning pictures at night.


How to Do the Bokeh Effect

"Bokeh" originated from the Japanese word boke, which refers to blur or haze. It is described as the aesthetic quality of blurred light sources in a particular photograph. It can be used in both daytime and nighttime photography. You'll surely love to use this technique when taking pictures. If you are a beginner but you want to familiarize yourself with bokeh effect, here are some tips for doing it:

1. Change the aperture. The aperture pertains to how wide the opening of the camera lens is. Before taking bokeh photography, make sure to adjust the aperture. Take note that using a smaller f-number gives you a blurred background. For a better bokeh effect, you can use the widest aperture, such as f/1.8. If you don't have an Aperture Priority mode in your device, you can choose the Portrait Scene mode as an alternative. You can always experiment with aperture and distance to see which is the best for your photography needs.

2. Choose a good background. It is essential to find a good background for your photographs. It is because the bokeh itself may not guarantee you with quality shots. Though it may be easy to blur a backdrop, it is still crucial to look for a beautiful background because it can be noticeable in the photograph. Know those plain ones may not give the result that you want for the bokeh. You may find less appealing visuals with plain backgrounds, so try to search for a background that can give you patterns and soft textures when blurred. For easier reference, you can perform the photoshoot in urban locations. City lights offer compelling visuals that are excellent for bokeh photography. If you are in rural areas, try to look for a pond or lake because the reflected light in water bodies also create captivating bokeh effects.

3. Find a good source of light. Bokeh is not just about having an aesthetically appealing background. That's why try to look for a good source of light where you can do the photoshoot. Though it is challenging to find a light source at night, there are some things that you can use for the bokeh effect. You may use Christmas lights to attain the out-of-focus blur. These are the usual light sources of bokeh photographers. You can also utilize the lights coming from the windows of the buildings. Even though the sun cannot be a light source for bokeh photography, you can use the small patches that it gives that comes through the leaves of the trees. Consider the colour of the light source because it shows in the photographs even though it is blurred.

4. Focus on the subject. Both the background and foreground are essential elements when using the bokeh effect. But don't forget to feature the subject perfectly by illuminating it adequately. There are times when some photographers forget to focus on their subject because they pay more attention to the background or foreground. Take note that it is also essential to make interesting poses if your subject is a person. 

5. Opt for portraits. If you are a novice photographer and you want to achieve quality photographs with bokeh effect, then go for portraits. It is because portrait photography creates bokeh excellently, especially if the subjects are up close. If you search on the internet about samples for bokeh photographs, you'll find that most of them are portraits or macro images. Nature also provides a lot of great subjects for photography. You can practice on flowers by shooting close-ups.

6. Place the subject far from the light source. To create excellent bokeh photography, you need to make the background blurry. You can do this by positioning the subject far from the light source. To make a blurrier background, you need to place the item farther from the background. However, if you want to achieve bigger light orbs, you can position the subject closer to the background. On the other hand, if you need a bokeh photograph without using a subject, switch to manual focus. Doing so allows you to create lights that are completely out of focus.

7. Pick a nice foreground. Besides selecting a good background, you also have to choose a great foreground. Sometimes, photographers make use of string lights to achieve foreground bokeh. You can attain it by working with wide apertures, just like the rule for the background. Adjusting the focus on your subject allows you to make the background and foreground blurry. For excellent foreground bokeh, find some reflective surfaces such as windows. Using the reflected lights on the windows can fill up the negative space, allowing you to have a nice foreground. When doing this technique, you have to experiment with various angles. Find an angle that does not give unnecessary reflections.


The bokeh effect is an interesting technique that you can apply for your photography needs. It helps you photograph fascinating pictures even at night. Not only that, but bokeh also creates stunning backgrounds. Using the bokeh effect for nighttime photography can help you improve your skills and creativity as a photographer.