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An example of bokeh

From Japanese 暈け (boke, blur), the nominalized form of 暈ける (bokeru, to blur (intransitive)).

The terminal -h, absent in the romanization boke, is a pronunciation guide so that it is not pronounced as /boʊk/ as it would be under standard English orthography. Contrast karate and karaoke, which have undergone sound changes.

The term has been used since at least 1996,[1] with the spelling bokeh introduced by editor Mike Johnston in the March–April 1997 issue of Photo Techniques magazine, Johnston writing “it is properly pronounced with bo as in bone and ke as in Kenneth, with equal stress on either syllable”.[2]



bokeh (uncountable)

  1. (photography) A subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of an image projected by a camera lens.
    • 2010, Charlotte K. Lowrie, “Exploring Canon Lenses and Accessories”, in Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550D Digital Field Guide, Indianapolis, Ind.: Wiley Publishing, →ISBN, page 186:
      The quality of the out-of-focus area in a wide-aperture image is called bokeh, originally from the Japanese word boke, pronounced bo-keh, which means fuzzy. In photography, bokeh reflects the shape and number of diaphragm blades in the lens, and that determines, in part, the way that out-of-focus points of light are rendered in the image. Bokeh is also a result of spherical aberration that affects how the light is collected. Although subject to controversy, photographers often judge bokeh as being either good or bad. Good bokeh renders the out-of-focus areas as smooth, uniform, and generally circular shapes with nicely blurred edges. Bad bokeh, on the other hand, renders out-of-focus areas with polygonal shapes, hard edges, and with illumination that creates a brighter area at the outside of the disk shape.
    • 2014, Bob Davis; Dawn Davis, “Blackhawks Fans: The Back Story, Posing, Lighting and Lens Selection, Colleagues”, in We’re Engaged!: Photographing Vibrant and Joyful Portraits of the Happy Couple, Buffalo, N.Y.: Amherst Media, →ISBN, pages 102–103:
      Shooting with natural light, I used a long lens (200mm) to compress the space and slightly blur the background by photographing at a large open aperture (f/2.5). This resulted in georgeous bokeh, putting the city into a blur while keeping the couple razor sharp.
    • 2014, Krista Smith, “What You Need”, in The Right Light: Photographing Children and Families Using Natural Light, Buffalo, N.Y.: Amherst Media, →ISBN, page 13:
      More expensive lenses usually go down to f/2.8, letting you shoot at faster shutter speeds and get great, creamy bokeh in your background.



  1. ^ Harold M. Merklinger (March–April 1997), “A Technical View of Boke”, in Photo Techniques (reproduced on The Luminous Landscape website)[1], archived from the original on 22 December 2016.
  2. ^ Mike Johnston (4 April 2004), “Bokeh in Pictures”, in The Luminous Landscape[2], archived from the original on 3 January 2015.

Further reading[edit]