Bokeh is a look that you achieve when you open the lens wide open and allow the background lights to fall so out-of-focus that they become large circles, or ovals, of light. It is a wonderful way to create a romantic lighting situation and looks best when the lens is wide open. Different lenses can create different bokeh patterns but most modern lenses have round bokeh in the middle that gradually changes to ovals on the edge. I want to make the background of my image a bokeh pattern and use a strobe light on the couple up front. I will use a double rim/key lighting setup with a strong fill as our lighting. Let’s get our light up and see what we can do.
We hung large Christmas bulbs in the trees behind the couple to create the bokeh pattern. I like the large lights because they give off more light and it’s easier to get an exposure. The couple will be quite a ways away from the lights so I have room to use a 200mm lens and allow the lights to go out-of-focus.
#1 Here's our lighting setup with just the bokeh.
#2 I will add a fill light from the front; we are shooting fast so I will use an LED with a battery here. This will make it easy to increase and decrease the amount of light on their faces.
#3 I will now add a rim from camera left that will rim him and key her. The image is not terrible right now but needs more.
#4 I will add a second rim/key from the camera right side to rim her and key him. I like this look very much. My camera settings in this set up are f2.8 at 1/100 and an ISO of 640. I love the compression on these images. The 200mm lens makes this work.
#5 Here's another shot with the Tamron 70-200mm lens.
#6 I wanted to show how lenses can change the bokeh effect in the image so I did some shots on a 24-70mm Tamron lens. I don't like the background as much with this lens. I see more of the scene and don't get as nice of a look on the bokeh. The settings were f2.8 at 1/100 and 800 ISO.
#7 Just for fun I tried the Canon 50mm fixed focal length lens and shot at 1.2 aperture at 1/100 and 100 ISO. These are nice but the couple needed to be moved closer to the lights. Too much background to be real nice.
#8 Heading this direction and wanting to see more of the background, I put the 24-70mm Tamron lens back on and did some images at 35mm. This shows the whole scene including the sky and creates a very different look. This is about the whole scene and has very little bokeh – literally very small bokeh.
#9 This has the same exposure but the ambient light had dropped by the time I moved in closer. The camera settings were f5.0and 1/13th of a second 800 ISO.
This was fun to look at different lenses and the bokeh they create. I love the double rim and key light, it is one of my favorites. It’s great for a two-person interview as well. I hope you have learned as much as I have in this experiment with strobes and bokeh.
Thanks for watching! Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
-Jay P Morgan