Is the term Gaussian blur used strictly in post-production, or can it also be used as a term for an out-of-focus area in your image when you-re taking the picture? I'm pretty sure that bokeh is used to describe an area out-of-focus when you're taking the picture, can gaussian blur also be used when you're taking the picture?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Didn't you already ask this here?: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/21459/… \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ No. That question was asking what the difference was. This question is asking if gaussian blur can be used to describe an out-of-focus part of an image. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Walker
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


It's not appropriate to use the term "Gaussian blur" for the out-of-focus parts of an image, because "Gaussian" refers to a specific blurring function. It's the same Gaussian curve that you may know from the "normal distribution" or "bell curve" in statistics. A bright point that's smoothed by a Gaussian will taper smoothly from a bright center to a dark edge.

Gaussian Blur

Example of bright points with Gaussian Blur, made in the GIMP.

The out-of-focus parts of your photograph are not smoothed in the same way. Instead, an out-of-focus bright point in your image will appear in the shape of your aperture. So if your lens isn't stopped down, it will look like a bright circle. It doesn't taper smoothly from the center to the edge like a Gaussian does. (If your lens is stopped down, you'll get a polygon instead of a circle—for example, a hexagon if your aperture has 6 blades. But the same point applies: It doesn't smoothly taper from bright to dark like a Gaussian does.)

Out of focus Sheetz gas station by me

In the above picture, notice that the out-of-focus lights are evenly filled circles, not Gaussian profiles (which would fade gradually from a bright center to a dark edge).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Depending on over- or under-correction of spherical aberration, out of focus highlights might happen to fit a Gaussian profile, but if it's even close to perfectly corrected, they won't. DC Nikkors and the Minolta/Sony STF lens can also produce something closer to a Gaussian profile (in the DC Nikkors' case by letting you adjust spherical aberration correction). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 6:18

Gaussian blur is a transformation that you apply to (pixels of) your digital image. You can infer that it is an algorithm since the name "Gaussian" refers to the mathematical properties of the transformation that you are applying to your image (which is related to the gaussian density exp(-r^2/2).

Bokeh is the shape of out of focus source of light, depending on the mechanical features of your camera.

As you can see, the two are completely different things.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.