How to Create Foreground Bokeh In-Camera

Bokeh refers to how a lens renders out-of-focus areas of an image, or more accurately the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light. Bokeh is most commonly seen in small highlights such as specular reflections and light source areas of an out-of-focus background. This technique aims to bring that visual effect firmly into the foreground.

Foreground bokeh

Model: Alex Fia; Photographer: Jake Hicks Photography

Foreground bokeh is achieved by shining light through glassware very close to the lens, thereby creating strong specular highlights which when viewed through a long lens at a low f-number create these blurred circles.

For these particular shots the model was captured with flash and the bokeh was captured with the tungsten light from the modeling bulb from a flash head, hence the longer shutter speeds. This was a personal choice to try and ‘warm up’ the foreground but you could just as easily use flash for both, personally I found the stark white of the flashed foreground bokeh to be too distracting but in theory using colored gels would also resolve this.

Model: Alex Fia; Photographer: Jake Hicks Photography

Take care not to get ‘unwanted’ flare in the lens by using barn-doors or flags, removing lens filters (screw on UV lens protectors etc) will also greatly reduce the chance of unwanted flare.

It is important to note that different lenses create very different results, lens coatings, aperture blade shape, and amount of glass used all play a part in how the final bokeh appear. Varying the lens length and f-stop though are the two key contributors as to how the final bokeh will appear. Experimentation is key.

Shooting info:

  • Camera: Cannon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Lens: 130mm
  • F-Stop: f/5.6
  • Shutter Speed: 1.4 sec
  • Film Speed: 100
  • Light Source: Mixed Tungsten/Flash

Model: Jayey; Photographer: Jake Hicks Photography

Model: Jayey; Photographer: Jake Hicks Photography

Jake Hicks Photography

Having been a freelance photographer for over six years, I have been fortunate enough to be involved with some very varied and influential clients. They have chosen me to represent their companies image and ideals because my work is always about ensuring a progressive aesthetic to any given campaign, with my results always standing out for the right reasons. View more of my work on my website:

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