Bokeh or Nokeh – What Is Your Preference (and Does It Really Matter)?

Aug 30, 2018

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Bokeh or Nokeh – What Is Your Preference (and Does It Really Matter)?

Aug 30, 2018

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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Coffee mug on a weathered cottage dock in early morning on summer day.

So I’m down at the dock at the cottage and I decided that I wanted to snap a photo of my coffee to post a fairly typical, quick and easy Instagram banger.

Since the purpose of this photo was straight to social, I arranged the composition and then pulled out my phone to snap the picture (because why would a manufacturer build a camera with Android to be able to do this on an actual camera…).

After snapping the photo, I decided that it actually looked pretty decent – nice enough that I had to run back up to the cottage to grab my DSLR with an 85mm f/1.4…because, well, you know…bokeh.

Obviously, my mobile phone snapshot has zero bokeh. It’s also wide angle and on a tiny sensor compared to a full frame DSLR with an 85mm f/1.4 – but that’s beside the point.

Looking at both images side by side, I actually kind of like the mobile phone snapshot better…

In this context, I think the details of the weathered wood, the ripples in the lake and the surface of the coffee and the rim of the mug both being in focus just looks a little more interesting.

Although, I still like the separation between subject and background you get with a full frame DLSR and an 85mm.

Here are the two photos for comparison:

Coffee mug on a weathered cottage dock in early morning on summer day.Coffee mug on a weathered cottage dock in early morning on summer day.

Now obviously the composition and processing of these two photos are a little different (the mobile phone image was processed with Snapseed on my phone for social media, the DSLR image was processed with Lightroom on my desktop for stock), but what I really found interesting is the idea that for me to capture a high-quality image, I had to use an 85m lens wide open at f/1.4 for maximum bokeh.

With Nikon’s release of the full frame mirrorless Z6 and Z7 cameras with a brand new Z mount system specifically designed to allow for new ultra-fast lenses (like the just announced Nikon 58mm f/0.95 Noct lens scheduled to be released in 2019), the quest for bokeh is a trend that camera manufacturers are obviously banking on too.

Bokeh or Nokeh – What’s Your Preference?

What do you think – is the quest for the ultimate bokeh real, hype or does it really matter at all?

My personal opinion is that images captured with high quality fast prime lenses with good quality bokeh almost always look better than snapshots with a kit lens.

It’s not always an obvious difference, but you can’t deny that you get a pro-look from pro glass.

However, full frame cameras and fast lenses are expensive, and the creativity and skill of the photographer are going to be much more important than any piece of gear for any image.

But what do you think?

Is it the glass or is it the photographer?

Do you prefer a nice shallow depth of field, or do you want to see crystal clear details from foreground to horizon?

Does it really matter if you’re just compressing all of that detail into a tiny social media jpg?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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6 responses to “Bokeh or Nokeh – What Is Your Preference (and Does It Really Matter)?”

  1. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    Bokeh should be used as a filter… for some photos it works awesome, for others, not so much… I personally am upgrading to the fastest lenses I can purchase that way I as a creative have the OPTION of using bokeh in my compositions… again option. That said if you have integrated shallow depth of field in your photography as part of your style then definitively bokeh is a must… for many of its exciting that we have the option but then again not everything has to be shot at 1.4 aperture.

  2. Jimmy Harris Avatar
    Jimmy Harris

    It’s a tool. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I think it’s overused by many photographers. I especially think it’s overused by outdoor portrait photographers who often drag their model out to a beautiful location, only to blur out the location and negate the point of going to the location. Many photographers also tend to think of it as a sharp dividing line between the two, rather than incorporate just the right amount of bokeh. Take the first photo in this article as an example. I think it would have looked a lot better if the entire mug had been in focus, since that is clearly the subject of the photo. Then you could still blur out everything behind it for separation.

  3. Babsy1969 Avatar
    Babsy1969

    Even with a “kit” lens you can achieve bokeh. Much easier with fast glass for sure, but it can be done.

  4. Crista Avatar
    Crista

    I really don’t get this bokeh thing and the extent that Mobile Phone manufacturers are going to, to achieve it. If I take a selfie of me and my wife I want crystal clear details from front to back so that people can see where we were – surely that’s the point. My pals are not interested in endless pics of us with a blurred background…

    1. JP Danko Avatar
      JP Danko

      Fauxkeh is the worst!

  5. Fernando Adrian Avatar
    Fernando Adrian

    bokeh is achived with the distance between the subject and the background, even with the kit lens (f3.5) its possible