Bokeh (which translates to "blur" in Japanese) is a photography technique referring to the blurred areas of a photograph. Basic bokeh photographs often have one point of focus, while the background falls away into a dreamy, blurred haze.
The technique can be taken even further, however, when the haze is manipulated with a filter to create customized shapes, which are "cut out of" the blurred light in the photograph. See example:
We've rounded up several tutorials for you to experiment with. Below, a collection of videos and links to get you started, and for you non-DSLR owners, don't fret—check out #3 below for a tutorial on using a standard consumer camera to achieve the bokeh effect.
MAKE Magazine presents a simple tutorial for creating your own bokeh filter. Follow along below, and check out the project page for images and text instructions.
Robert Donovan's DSLR bokeh tutorial is wonderfully thorough, with lengthy explanations of all the technical components regarding lenses and aperture settings. Not intended for beginners or consumer digital camera owners.
Non-DSLR owners feeling left out? Robert Donovan presents a method for creating bokeh with a basic point-and-shoot camera (or as Donovan calls them, "push here dummy" cameras). The tricky part is overcoming the consumer camera's small aperture in comparison to the larger aperture of the DSLR, as shown in the images below.
Evan Sharboneau of Photo Extremist provides a technical guide to mastering bokeh using a DSLR camera. Evan recommends you use a 50mm f1.8 or 70-200mm f2.8 lens, or worst case scenario, experiment with the standard 18-55mm kit lens that likely came with your camera. Not intended for beginners or consumer digital camera owners.
Don't feel like bothering with the complexities of DSLR lenses and aperture settings? Then check out Obsidian Dawn's tutorial for adding a faux bokeh background using Photoshop.
For a quick and easy how-to, check out DIY Photgraphy's 3-step guide for hacking together a homemade bokeh filter. You will need: 1 large aperture lens, 1 sheet of black paperboard, scissors, and tape. We also have a good DIY bokeh lens guide you can follow.
Another simple tutorial for creating a homemade bokeh filter; click through to Ridley's site for brief accompanying text instructions.
Fast learner? Then try Howcast's speedy DIY bokeh lens tutorial, demonstrated in no more than a minute and 15 seconds.