When blurry photos can be a good thing

At some point in my adventures as a beginning photographer, I got completely obsessed with bokeh. Defined as “the aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of an image,” the Japanese term basically means . . . little circles of light. And when you look for them, they’re everywhere.

I manage to capture bokeh — all the time, and pretty much everywhere — by changing my lens to manual focus, then twisting until everything in my shot is blurry and out-of-focus. (This is all very scientific, I know — bear with me and my technical prowess, please.) When I see little circles everywhere, I press the shutter. What translates in the image is often what I see through the viewfinder — but occasionally not, too. And that’s what I like about it.

Christmas is an awesome time of year to experiment with bokeh photography. Strands of multicolored lights, sparkly presents, light reflecting off wine glasses, Christmas trees themselves — all excellent things and moments to capture in bokeh. I take my camera out at night and shoot pictures of the house. I document everyone’s Christmas trees, then prowl around the office snapping holiday decorations.

Bokeh comes out best when it’s dark — nighttime, or just really dark in a room — so look for the contrast of your tiny lights against a black space. I’m no expert, so I refer you to a good tutorial and information on bokeh — and some stunning examples of the technique.

If you’re tired of your run-of-the-mill holiday shots this year, trying experimenting with something new! I guarantee you’ll impress your friends and get some interesting photos to show for it.

Who knew blurry shots could be a good thing?


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17 Comments

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17 responses to “When blurry photos can be a good thing

  1. Focus schmocus. And you don’t need bokeh for interesting non-sharp stuff. Go to Flickr and check out the work of Chris Friel and Brendan O :-)

  2. Hey, who knew I was doing something artistic! I particularly like that last picture. Gorgeous!

  3. I spent all weekend playing with this! inspired by our new Christmas tree, so fun!

  4. I’ll have to give it a try if we ever get our tree up!

  5. Ha ha – my pictures are often bokeh whether I intend it or not!

  6. Oh you’re so right. Definitely with lights.

  7. I set a wide aperture when I’m photographing bugs and butterflies in the garden to get the blurry background but I haven’t tried it with lights or in the dark. I like the table shot, I’ll have to give this a try. Thanks for the suggestions.

  8. I especially like the first shot.

    I went to a Halloween pumpkin “spectacular” earlier this year and ended up with several nice “artistically blurry” shots because without the flash, the slightest movement made the camera shaky. At first I was disappointed that I wasn’t getting clear pictures, but now I know I was just being very artistic!

  9. I love this look :) When I was a kid, I was very nearsighted and loved looking at the Christmas tree lights without my glasses – same blurry effect!

  10. Hey, Secret Santa! Thanks for letting me know. The suspense was killing me! I love your photography post, and I’m going to read The Bungalow next. I’m also a new follower. Thanks for spoiling me, and have a great holiday!

  11. I love when lights a little blurry :) it can make a beautiful picture for sure! You have some great shots!

  12. Oh yeah, those are beautiful! I like what you are doing there!

  13. These photos are SO pretty. I admit I don’t play around with bokeh much, but I should! Thanks for the inspiration Meg!

  14. There’s something about blurry photos that match the coziness of Christmas time. Lovely photos, as usual :)

  15. kay

    Bokeh is one of my favorite possibilities in photography. It gives us the possibility to see life in a different, magical, mysterious way. I don’t tire of it and I completely agree, the holidays are the best time of the year with all those lights and colors!
    Your pictures are gorgeous, and as a Christmas-obsessed girl, I have to say I love the Bokeh-tree :)

  16. That last picture is gorgeous Meg! I’ve been trying to experiment with Bokeh as well but even with a gorillapod releasing the shutter gives too much jiggle for the long shutterspeed. Need to pull out the remote!

    Thanks for pointing me to the tutorials–I’m still trying to figure out how to get a lot of bokeh in the background with the forefront in focus.

    don’t know if you follow any photography blogs, but this one is hosting a Holiday Bokeh party. You should submit some of your shots! http://my3boybarians.com/

    • Meg

      Thanks, Trish — I appreciate the link and kind words! I need to get more into photography blogs — so many great ideas out there. And the remote is a good idea. I’m still trying to get used to setting up a tripod — it’s a little outside my comfort zone! Seems simple, but I’m always worried my camera is going to plummet to the ground. Haha!