Before the rush

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by evan-pak

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Assuming I stick with my current 50mm, f1.8 prime on a DX, are there any: 1. Tips I could use to create better bokeh using the current lenses while shooting or by adjusting camera settings 2. Post processing steps that I could use to smoothen them.

[Sample pic below with exif data for reference] ]

Edit1: Here is some key exif data. Camera: Nikon D3000 Lens: AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Shot at 50 mm Exposure: Auto exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 1/160 sec, f/2.5, ISO 400 Flash: none Focus: Manual, at 45cm, with a depth of field of about 7mm, centered on the focus point AF Area Mode: Single Area

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I believe imgur strips exif off. What aperture is that - I can see the octagonal blades clearly - f/2.8-f/4 somewhere? – MikeW Mar 2 '13 at 20:24
Seems like it. Added to edit 1. – Regmi Mar 3 '13 at 6:35
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Quality of bokeh depends on the quality of the lens (certain intangibles plus things like number and type of aperture blades), aperture chosen, subject-to-camera and subject-to-background distance, and the nature of the background.

If you want nice, rounded circles, you'll want to shoot wide open. The 1.8D has 7 straight blades, so as you stop down, you'll see those octagons as in your example - which might be fine if you like that look, or it works for a particular image, but generally I'd shoot wide open.

Besides aperture, you can increase the blur of the background by moving as close to the subject as possible, so that the ratio of the distance from the camera to subject becomes much smaller than the subject to background. Fortunately the lens focuses quite close, so move in as far as you can.

Although it's subjective, I think the most pleasing backgrounds for bokeh are fairly plain, with little detail, not too bright. High contrast and sharp edges don't tend to look as pleasing when thrown out of focus.

In your example, the focus point at the left side of the image has some very bright spots in the background, along with some out of focus twigs that IMO are distracting. This is what I referred to about high contrast and sharp edges. Leaves and things look nice when thrown out of focus, the twigs do not.

I think you'll find if you reframe so that your twig only has some nice green foilage in the background, it would look fantastic.

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Thank you for the detailed answer and those tips I could use next time. – Regmi Mar 3 '13 at 17:18

Camera settings (other than aperture) have little or no effect on the bokeh. Certain subjects do produce much more pleasing bokeh, small points of light often work well, whether it's distant city lights, fairy lights or specular highlights from a very bright light source.

Bokeh from distant city lights

It can be unpredictable at times, you have to experiment a little. Closely spaced lines turns to produce nervous bokeh, as do tree branches.

Nervous bokeh from tree branches

When it comes to postprocessing you can simulate apodization or uncorrected spherical abberation (both of which usually give smoother bokeh) by applying a Gaussian blur to the out of focus areas of an image.

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Thanks for the inclusion of sample pics and the last advice on blur. – Regmi Mar 3 '13 at 17:20

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