Who Needs Bokeh?

I realized today that it’s been just over two weeks since I’ve posted something here.  I haven’t shot anything except for iPhone snapshots in the past two weeks!  I’ve been so busy between my writing job and preparing for our house move that I haven’t shot anything worth sharing.  I don’t expect the next week to be very different.  My next booking is one month away at this point so it could be awhile before I have some new images to share, but I wanted to let everyone know that I’m still very much here.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share someone else’s blog post, something that I ran across earlier that really made an impression on me.  It’s from the Sound Image Plus blog, written by David Taylor-Hughes, and it’s a piece entitled Limited Depth of Field – What Use Is It?  Here’s an excerpt:

 I can’t remember ever talking to a single photographer, amateur or professional, who went on about what great results they could get at f/1.2. I have never known anyone who shoots other than a few test pictures at apertures like that, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t use a lens with a ridiculously wide aperture wide open without a sense of foreboding. But wedding photographers use it all the time don’t they? Well some might put a few pictures on their website but I’ve never met the bride who wanted a portrait of herself with only her left eye in focus, or with a picture of just a part of the ring on her finger in focus with some blurred things in the background that might possibly be her fingers.

Looked through a (non-photographic) magazine recently? Looked at the commercial, commissioned, editorial and advertising shots. Not many with limited depth of field and “creamy bokeh” are there? And for me that is the whole point. Just what use is limited depth of field other than to be posted on internet forums, published in photographic magazines and discussed down the camera club. “Look at the bokeh on that” “Fantastic, but what is it a picture of ?”

I have seen so many reviews of cameras and lenses screaming to the heavens about “creamy bokeh.”  It’s a phrase that drives me nuts – in part because I have no idea how bokeh could be “creamy” and in even larger part because many of these so-called review sites then offer examples that merely show out-of-focus areas and are pretty much terrible pictures no matter how you look at them.

Me, I love bokeh – when it’s called for.  And there certainly are times it is desirable.  But mostly it isn’t.  Most of the stuff I shoot professionally has no call for bokeh whatsoever.  Yes, when I’m shooting a band on stage, I’m going to have limited depth of field because I’m using the lowest possible ISO and the fastest possible shutter speed, so I have to compromise on the aperture setting.  But trust me, I only shoot at F2.8 when I have no other choice.

So thanks David Taylor-Hughes for raising your voice and saying that the emperor has no clothes.  I agree with you.






One Comment

  1. davethevet February 8, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    The zeiss 25 f2 was specifically designed to be used wide open and close. If your viewfinder is calibrated properly its no problem nailing focus a high percentage of the time and the look is very special. Very medium format/cinematic. Its very beautiful.

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