There are loads of smartphones boasting seriously impressive cameras on the market, and you don't have to look too far to find devices with 18, 20 or even 23MP. However, if you want your photos to look professional you're going to need more than a bunch of megapixels to achieve the perfect shot.
Whether you're a budding photographer or simply eager to up your Instagram game, there are many photography techniques you can use. Bokeh happens to be one of the most popular, and thanks to the cutting-edge tech inside our phones you can now produce this cool, blurred effect on today's high-end smartphones.
How do I pronounce bokeh?
Before diving into the details about what exactly bokeh is, you're going to need to know how to pronounce it. It's no use snapping pics like a pro if you can't tell your friends exactly how you did it.
How to pronounce bokeh: Bo-Ke
Bo, pronounced the same way as 'bow' in bowtie. Ke, the same sound used to pronounce kettle.
Now, with the pronunciation sorted, let's move on and learn all about the effect...
What is bokeh?
Bokeh is known as an effect which blurs part of an image, often creating an out-of-focus background and directing the viewer's attention to a particular focal point within the image. A sense of separation is created between the subject in focus and the softer, blurred areas - to photographers, this has always been known as shallow depth of field.
How to achieve bokeh
Good bokeh is known for its aesthetically pleasing qualities and lack of sharp edges, and is created by the lens - not the camera itself. To achieve good bokeh, you will need to use a fast lens and a large aperture such as f/2.8, f/2 or f/1.8 (remember a large/wide aperture will have a smaller number).
If the option is available to you, you may wish to increase your shutter speed when shooting with a large aperture to avoid over-exposed images.
Here's a step by step guide on how to achieve bokeh with your smartphone. Remember, not all phones will be capable of each step. For example, iPhone users may wish to skip to step 3 or download an app like VSCO which offers more camera options.
- If possible, set your camera to manual mode.
- Adjust your shutter speed - opt for a speed between 1/30 and 1/50.
- Play around with the manual focus on your camera until the background of your image becomes blurred. For iPhone users, you can lock the focus by tapping the area you'd like to focus on and holding your finger down until AE/AF lock appears.
- As many smartphones will not let you adjust the aperture, you may wish to experiment with the ISO to increase or decrease the exposure on your photo.
- Take the photo when you're satisfied with the image on the screen.
To enhance the bokeh effect on images taken by your smartphone, you may wish to use a photo editing app like AfterFocus. AfterFocus enables users to select the area they wish to remain in focus, then apply a lens blur to the background - you can change the intensity of this blur too to achieve your desired effect.
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus users can also mimic the bokeh effect using Portrait Mode. To activate, simply launch the camera app, swipe across the menu wheel and select Portrait. Lock the area you'd like to focus on and then follow the directions that will appear on your screen. You'll receive prompts to help you with lighting and distance, and then Depth Effect will pop up once you've met the camera's needs. Then, all you need to do is take a photo like you normally would.
The method required for achieving bokeh on a smartphone varies between each device, so we advise experimenting with the settings available to you until for the best results.
Why does bokeh matter?
Even smartphone users can enjoy the benefits of bokeh. Pleasing to the eye and adding softness to a photograph, your photos will have an air of professionalism to them that won't be ignored.
If you're posting your images online, high-quality bokeh photographs are more likely to receive a positive response across social media and within the photography community. Don't forget to use hashtags such as #bokeh, #bokehphotography and #smartphonephotography if you're posting to Instagram - you'll soon find the likes (and maybe even followers) roll in.
Can my phone take great bokeh photos?
Are you on the market for a new smartphone with an excellent camera, or curious to know if your current device can take great bokeh photos? There are a few particular features to look out for, such as adjustable shutter speeds and larger fixed apertures. Unfortunately you won't be able to acieve this effect on older or retro phones.
Smartphones that can often capture brilliant bokeh images will have a fixed aperture larger than f/2.8 and a manual mode so you can control the focus of the image. Make sure you practice with your device first, and don't forget that it can be more difficult to achieve the bokeh effect on a smartphone compared to a DSLR.
Smartphones that can potentially take great bokeh images include the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, and the Google Pixel XL and Google Pixel 2 - all of which can be found, online, at brilliant prices today with Mobiles.co.uk.