“Gathering Bokeh” – by Tracey Clark of Shutter Sisters

((We have a bunch of ideas brewing for The Bokeh Pot.  If you’ve read the FAQ tabs, you know that this blog is suppose to also post events/seminars/workshops… and well, we’re working on that!  But we’re also going to be randomly adding a little mix of fun facts, info, how-to, inspiration, etc… We thought to kick start the new addition, this super cute post from the Shutter Sisters would be perfect!))

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Many thanks goes out to Tracey Clark, founder of the fabulous blog, Shutter Sisters, for letting us re-post her lovely article on bokeh!  Shutter Sisters is a collaborative photo blog that “is committed to honoring and celebrating the beauty that women behind cameras can capture.”  Definitely check it out!

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A few months back Sarah-Ji shed some light on the meaning of the background and technique of bokeh. Back then, I was infatuated with the idea and the look of ‘beautiful bokeh’ and loved that it would just magically appear in a photograph I captured now and again. It was always a nice surprise to be met with lovely soft spheres in the background of my image, sometimes solitary, sometimes in a chorus or sometimes coming from a mix of light and water in mystifying sunspot like shapes. I am partial to and speaking of the lovely little ‘balls’ of bokeh (as opposed to the smooth and silky, non circular kind) just to clarify for this post.


If you have been reading this blog since it’s incarnation, you probably know by now that I am smitten by surprises like these and love to stumble upon beauty by happenstance. In other words, I subscribe to the notion of photographic magic and happy accidents and I am pretty content living and shooting in that state of mind when I can get away with it. However, my appreciation and admiration of Bokeh slowly grew into a kind of obsession. A healthy obsession, but an obsession none the less. I quickly became what one might consider a bokeh stalker. I began to notice when it was showing up in my photos and paying more attention to what I was doing at the time of the capture in hopes to better understand it and to be able to eventually, consistently recreate it. If certain photographic details don’t pique my curiosity enough to want to try to crack the code on them, I just enjoy them when they do decide to show up. You know, that magic thing again—kinda like the whole thing is out of my control. In the case of pretty, petite-planetary bokeh, I felt driven to figure out how to find it and how to gather it up in my images. I liken it to learning to catch fireflies in a jar which, by the way my girls and I learned to do for the first time over the summer. So fun!


As I began to recognize what time of day the natural light bokeh was most likely to be bountiful and easy to access (in the early morning and late afternoon light) and how the light could become dappled enough to create the celestial circles (filtered through bushes or tree leaves) I began to then play with it’s size. The aperture you are set at, will affect the circumference of the circles (i.e. the size of the opening of the aperture will either bring that light into focus or will throw that light out of focus. The more out of focus the light speckles are, the larger your bokeh circle. So, I got that down but it still wasn’t enough. I had to take it a step further. See what I mean about obsession?

I had to find a way to collect the light in such a way that I could place the circles right where I wanted them. Imagine being able to find the bokeh when you want it and then actually control where the shapes end up? Oh I know, it seems all too calculated for a self-proclaimed intuition photographer like myself but the results are intoxicating and the experimentation is addicting.


Finding the filtered light and shooting at the aperture that gives me the results I desire is not the part that is compelling for me. That stuff is just a trial and error; a practice makes much closer to perfect thing. It’s in the careful placement of the shapes that my truest artist comes out to play.


As we learn to fine tune the way we see our subjects, pay attention to the background of our shots, fill in the negative space with glittering, sparkling, dancing light, we begin to actually write the poetry of own photographic work. As if almost beckoning us, bokeh is happy to oblige, and allows us to surely and steadily harness it’s magic.


What images can you share that unveil the mysteries of bokeh? Any tips or tricks to your process? Is it a science to you or more the coincidence of the click? Beauty is beauty no matter how we capture it. I cannot wait to see what you and your bokeh have created together.

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2 Responses to “Gathering Bokeh” – by Tracey Clark of Shutter Sisters

  1. Rebecca says:

    That is lovely!

  2. Laura says:

    This is such a great post!! Very nicely written!

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