I found this picture:

this picture.

What kind of technique is necessary to create such pictures?

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    There is something that annoys me. While I could recreate the effects described and shown in the answers, I couldn't do it with teh example shown by the OP. that indicates that it is not exactly the same effect. something is strange in this picture. – Michael Nielsen Jul 11 '13 at 23:19

I've always just heard it referred to as Bokeh, though, technically that word has a much broader meaning than just at night, or those specific shapes that you can create. I suppose "night bokeh" might suffice.

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    It's not a bokeh ! – Sourav Jul 6 '13 at 15:04
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    @Sourav - Why do you think that? Bokeh is the shape of out of focus highlights and these are out of focus highlights. A lot of them really... At any rate, that's not the whole answer, it's a part of it. – John Cavan Jul 6 '13 at 15:28
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    Technically speaking, Boke, the Japanese word, simply refers to the entire area of out of focus regions of a photo (which usually means the background, but could refer to the foreground). Bokeh is a change to the spelling of the word to enforce the correct pronunciation by English speakers. Boke refers to the overall nature and quality of background blur, both blur circles and completely blurred content. The proper technical term for an out of focus highlight is "blur circle", if one wishes to address only that aspect of background blur specifically. – jrista Jul 6 '13 at 19:29
  • @jrista, wouldn't blur circle only apply to apertures that are circle shaped? My 50mm f/1.8 does some great "blur pentagons"... :) – kenny Jul 7 '13 at 13:41
  • @kenny: Heh, good point...although I think I'd still call them blur circles, even if they are shaped like christmas trees. ;) – jrista Jul 7 '13 at 16:40

It looks to me like the picture you linked to involves multiple mirrors. It seems to have been taken in some sort of studio with mirrored walls. I've attached a copy of the photo here with the exposure heavily modified. Looking at it, you can more clearly see what is going on.

Mysterious picture with exposure lifted

I'm not sure what the light sources are (possibly well-concealed fireworks), but it seems that a mixture of slow shutter speed and imperfect focus made them into nicely shaped little blobs.

Hope this helps a little!


This is, of course, speculation since I didn't shoot this image, but it looks like a night scene in a park, or some other public space, that has been massively decorated with Christmas lights. If the depth of field is very shallow, using a very wide aperture, most of the lights (if not all) would be out of focus and create that circle effect. I have a similar concept:

enter image description here

I took that in my bar at 85mm and f/1.8. The background is white Christmas lights, fairly close to the subject. Distance and size of the lights relative to the subject will determine how big they appear.


The correct term for what you are referring to is a "blur circle", which is what occurs to point highlights that are out of focus. The more out of focus a point highlight is, the larger the blur circle, up to the size of the entrance pupil (which is the ultimate limiting factor).

Bokeh, derived from the Japanese word Boke (ボケ, "haze" or "blur"), simply refers to blur...usually background, but foreground as well. Boke does not specifically pertain to out of focus highlights, which form blur circles. Blur circles are a specific aspect of photography, and when produced with a high quality lens that generates high quality blur, are usually quite pleasing.

In your photo, it does look like blur circles, however for a relatively small amount of blur. I also suspect they are produced by very small point sources of light...christmas lights, maybe the result of fireworks, etc.

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