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Thread started 26 Mar 2014 (Wednesday) 11:27
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Bad Bokeh - Discussion Thread and Sample Images

 
Nathan
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Mar 26, 2014 11:27 |  #1

Due to a discussion in a different thread, I wanted to create a separate discussion about bad bokeh.

Lots of people acclaim bokeh... but when is it wise to avoid it or lessen it to a degree? Some questions to kick us off:

  • What constitutes bad or distracting bokeh?
  • What lenses render less than pleasing bokeh?
  • What factors in the foreground or background should we aware of that might create busy bokeh?
  • What are composition considerations when it comes to bokeh?
  • When does bokeh detract from an image?
Discuss and post samples.

There's a good and ugly bokeh thread in the competition forum, but it's dominated by images of "good" bokeh and not a lot of discussion.

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Nathan
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Mar 26, 2014 11:53 |  #2

Here's an example where I wasn't paying attention and created some pretty distracting shinies. The image isn't particularly artful itself anyway - just my in-laws at an event.

IMAGE: http://www.nathantpham.com/Personal/Family-friends/Miss-Saigon-Ao-Dai/i-DpsRnMZ/0/L/MissSaigonAoDai_04-L.jpg

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RMH
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Mar 26, 2014 11:58 |  #3

Haha, this is bound to start arguements, with people saying XYZ lens had bad bokeh and then offended owners defending their lenses.

Anyways....

Nathan wrote in post #16787863 (external link)
  • What constitutes bad or distracting bokeh?
  • Bad / Dristracting bokeh to me has repeating paterns, hard lines, a seenig double effect, hard edges to blurs, weird artifacts like onion bokeh in light sources, etc etc etc. There's lots of ways bokeh can be bad.

    Nathan wrote in post #16787863 (external link)
  • What lenses render less than pleasing bokeh?
  • The sigma 35 Art produces less than ideal bokeh in the right (or wrong!) circumstances very easily. And yes, I own this lens.

    The sigma 85 in generally looks very good from the samples I've seen, but every now and then produces some very strongly textured bokeh that I really don't like. I bought he 85L instead. Lot and lots of lenses have onion bokeh and other odd effects - even some of the best like the 24-70 f2.8 II and the 35L (both have onions). nice bokeh overal on both though.

    Nathan wrote in post #16787863 (external link)
  • What factors in the foreground or background should we aware of that might create busy bokeh?
  • Busy bokeh tends to be worse with lots of small sharp lines or egdes -- things like tree branches, leaves, bark chippings, etc tend to give harsh bokeh on a lens that's prone to it.

    Quick example from the Siggy 35 Art @f1.4. It makes makes my eyes hurt to look at this:

    IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5346/10253033015_dd2f3cf3bc_b.jpg

    Nathan wrote in post #16787863 (external link)
  • What are composition considerations when it comes to bokeh?
  • I try to look for backgrounds that will make good bokeh. That depends on what lens you're using;

    With the Siggy 35 i try to get the background far away / subject near enough to me to blur strongly enough to take the harshness out of it if I'm outdoors, but I hardly ever use it outside anyway, so it's not so much of an issue.


    The 85L will soften most things, and I like to try to get some bright points in there for it to play with, so I'm normally looking for a high contrast background with small(ish) hard bright points, eg a side lit bush with some leaves catching the light strongly (see below). I considder the 85L to have basically perfect bokeh... however you can over do it and have 'boring bokeh'; it can destroy a background to such an extent it's just a coloured smear and this can look quite boring and bland, esp if it's nutural colours like concrete etc.


    85L @ f2.5 :

    IMAGE: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3547/13044234024_8ec74ba591_b.jpg

    Nathan wrote in post #16787863 (external link)
  • When does bokeh detract from an image?
  • when it actually makes your eyes hurt to look at it :lol:



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    TheBee
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    Mar 26, 2014 13:11 |  #4

    Here is a shot I consider spoilt by the bokeh . To 'light' at the top

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    jjphoto
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    Mar 26, 2014 13:52 |  #5

    Most lenses have both good AND bad bokeh, one in front and the other behind the focus point (example here (external link)). Typically one is harsh and the other is soft (under corrected spherical aberration). Of course the bokeh behind the focus point is typically the most important so seems to be the only one that's considered. It's not very common, at least in my own experience, to find a lens with equal bokeh in front and behind the focus point.

    You can easily create a harsh bokeh (external link)if you want.


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    Tom ­ Reichner
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    Mar 26, 2014 14:17 |  #6

    RMH wrote in post #16787936 (external link)
    Quick example from the Siggy 35 Art @f1.4. It makes makes my eyes hurt to look at this:

    QUOTED IMAGE



    I try to look for backgrounds that will make good bokeh. That depends on what lens you're using.

    With the Siggy 35 I try to get the background far away / subject near enough to me to blur strongly enough to take the harshness out of it if I'm outdoors, but I hardly ever use it outside anyway, so it's not so much of an issue.

    You had a background that would have made good bokeh. Those trees, all leafed out in lush green. But you didn't put that behind the child by getting down and shooting from a much lower point of view. Instead, you chose to put the dirt behind the child, by shooting from an upright position.

    I find that good or bad bokeh is primarily a product of the spatial relationships between your shooting position, the subject's position, and the subject-to-background distance. This stuff has much more effect on bokeh than what gear was used or what f-stop you had your lens set to.


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    Nathan
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    Mar 26, 2014 14:18 |  #7

    I've never seen the spot filter effect before. That's actually kind of cool. Not pretty images, but cool.

    Also "bad" bokeh is somewhat subjective as well. There are manual focus lenses from yesteryear that have very different bokeh characteristics. Some say distracting and some say amazing. Check out here (external link).


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    RMH
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    Mar 26, 2014 14:48 |  #8

    Tom Reichner wrote in post #16788300 (external link)
    You had a background that would have made good bokeh. Those trees, all leafed out in lush green. But you didn't put that behind the child by getting down and shooting from a much lower point of view. Instead, you chose to put the dirt behind the child, by shooting from an upright position.

    I didn't say it was a terrible lens bokeh wise, just less than ideal, but given the thread was about bad bokeh not good bokeh, I posted the worst example i could find. Was that not the whole point?

    I was giving this as an example of how bad the bokeh can get, not the limit of how good it can get. Yes there's a lot one could do to improve it, was just a quick snapshot, but the trees look pretty aweful to me, so camera height alone wouldn't have helped much. I'd also suggest that unless you actually get the camera to the ground to shoot up and crop at the knee, then you are not going to be able to remove the ground from the frame entirely, though it can be made less prominant of course.

    Getting a lot closer to her as well as getting lower down to throw the background further out of focus does help a great deal, ie like this:

    IMAGE: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3818/10253014995_3891ce4219_b.jpg

    Again just another quick snapshot from the same day. Now the trees are nice, although her arm and the bark chippings are still not brilliant.

    Tom Reichner wrote in post #16788300 (external link)
    I find that good or bad bokeh is primarily a product of the spatial relationships between your shooting position, the subject's position, and the subject-to-background distance. This stuff has much more effect on bokeh than what gear was used or what f-stop you had your lens set to.

    I think you're underplaying the effect of lens and f stop here. Spatial relationships only control the amount of blur, not the quality. Planning what your background actually is makes a big difference to the quality of the bokeh, but lenses do play a large role in it too, even if it's just from a FL point of view.

    In my first example those trees look pretty aweful, but with me in the same place, my subject in the same place and background in the same place, my 85L would have turned it into a soft smear of green. Partly because it's a longer lens, partly because the bokeh is just smoother.



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    nathancarter
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    Mar 26, 2014 15:49 |  #9

    Nathan wrote in post #16788307 (external link)
    Also "bad" bokeh is somewhat subjective as well. There are manual focus lenses from yesteryear that have very different bokeh characteristics. Some say distracting and some say amazing. Check out here (external link).


    Dang, that thread reminded me that I really want that Trioplan 100mm f/2.8.

    Want, not need... of course.


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    RMH
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    Mar 26, 2014 15:51 |  #10

    Nathan wrote in post #16788307 (external link)
    I've never seen the spot filter effect before. That's actually kind of cool. Not pretty images, but cool.

    Also "bad" bokeh is somewhat subjective as well. There are manual focus lenses from yesteryear that have very different bokeh characteristics. Some say distracting and some say amazing. Check out here (external link).

    The majority of those give me a headache to look at :(



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    groundloop
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    Mar 26, 2014 16:44 |  #11

    Here's one I took last year with my 70-200 f4L, notice the arms and legs in the background that look deformed. IMO that strangeness killed this photo, in hindsight I should have picked a different spot to take photos from.

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    RMH
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    Mar 27, 2014 07:17 |  #12

    ^^^ What looks most weird is how hard-edged they are. I bit if you could blur the edges it'd look a lot less noticable.



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    Nathan
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    Mar 27, 2014 10:26 |  #13

    groundloop - I wouldn't attribute that really to bokeh rendering. That's due to blowing out the highlights. The arms and legs also reflect light and you really blew out the background. That combined with a degree of chromatic aberration, there're some really abnormal looking background elements.


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    Mar 27, 2014 11:23 |  #14

    Nathan wrote in post #16790220 (external link)
    groundloop - I wouldn't attribute that really to bokeh rendering. That's due to blowing out the highlights. The arms and legs also reflect light and you really blew out the background. That combined with a degree of chromatic aberration, there're some really abnormal looking background elements.

    You're right, Nathan. Much of that weirdness with the arms would have happened even if the arms themselves were in focus, so, it is not really a function of bokeh.


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    watt100
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    Mar 29, 2014 05:40 |  #15

    I sometimes get bad bokeh from the 50mm 1.8
    but probably didn't keep the pic




      
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