Is Bokeh overrated?

Discussion in 'Articles of Interest' started by VidThreeNorth, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. VidThreeNorth

    VidThreeNorth No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    "Bokeh is overrated" posted by "Denae & Andrew", Oct 25, 2018

    Another attempt to debunk a fad. I don't think his findings were as surprising as the Northrup's "color science" survey, but it is worth thinking about.


     
  2. Ysarex

    Ysarex Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Couldn't get through it -- too stupid. Don't think it would help even if he knew what bokeh is.

    Joe
     
  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    An awful video...because he is using multiple terms incorrectly. There is bokeh. There is depth of field. There is background blur. There is selective focus. These are four known terms. MANY people confuse selective focus with bokeh. Many people cannot understand what shallow depth of field is, as opposed to the quality of the out of focus areas. Most people are unaware of what background blur means. The video presenter in this case is NOT using the term bokeh correctly, and does not understand photography well enough to give valid opinions on anything worth committing to memory.

    It is possible to get identical depth of field, and the same-sized subject magnification, with two different lens lengths--and to have one lens that has VERY deeply de-focused background rendering! Background blur is determined by absolute focal length and the width of the lens aperture. LONG lenses, like 300mm and 400mm, have very WIDE apertures at, for example, f/4.5. At f/4.5, an 85mm lens has the same relative aperture (f/4.5), but that aperture f/value is MUCH narrower than the f/4.5 value is for a longer, 300mm lens; by changing the camera-to-subject distance, farther with the 300mm, and closer with the 85mm lens, it's possible to get the same depth of field of a foreground object, and the same picture size of the object--with the 300mm lens giving a wayyyyyyy defocused background, and the 85mm lens giving a moderately-recognizable degree of background blurring.

    Background blurring is also determined by sensor or film size, and lens lengths used...Background blur and its relationship to sensor size

    The issues involved are complicated. When a YouTuber cannot use the vocabulary _correctly_, and spouts nonsense,half-truths, and BS, I have no willingness to spend my time on his or her junk videos.

    This entire area demands careful study, and there is soooooo much mis-information and half-truth and confusion around, that MOST of the "authorities" of the last 10 years are using misinformation,and are repeating nonsense. Even here on TPF, you'd better be very careful of who you listen to on this subject. Because I have seen many threads here, for over a decade, that are FILLEd with misinformation on this subject, terms, principles, etc.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
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  4. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    dude shot the video wide open.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  5. Tim Tucker 2

    Tim Tucker 2 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I watched a bit of it and it seems to confuse two separate issues.

    1) The use of background blur.

    2) The subjective quality of that blur.

    The first issue is a bit of a non-issue and the debate regarding it is a bit non-sensical. It is a strange trait that we as photographers tend to think we *control* images by that which we understand and can control. We tend to believe that the images we make are defined by those things which we can control, such as choices of camera settings, PP techniques, lenses, etc. They are not, image are more defined by how the image jogs, or relates to the viewer's memory and experience, not your choice of aperture. Take the image below, the impression is one of a sharp image but most of it is out of focus. It works because of the expression and how we relate to that expression through our experience of dealing with people and what we've learnt that expression to mean. It works because of our memory and experience of looking at human faces and what we expect to see when we view them, that the eyes will always appear sharper than the skin, (having a thin film of moisture they will always have a higher acutance against a softer skin). If you reversed that you would have a portrait that is not how we expect to see it, with softer eyes, and it would be counter to our memory and experience of what we expect to see when we view a human face and look wrong or *out of focus*.

    _DSC6740_sRGB_sm.jpg

    The actual aperture can be varied quite a bit and makes little to no difference to how your audience responds to the image as long as you present something that they can relate to in a way that's consistent with what they expect to see and how they expect to see it. Aperture and shutter speed do not define the image, it is how the finished image relates to our experience of what we have seen in the past. Take an image of a storm from a beach with a long enough shutter speed and you transform it into an image of calm simply because what you present is more consistent with our memory and experience of what a calm day looks like than it is of what a stormy day does. Movement and flow in streams by long exposure is an abstract and something we don't see. It is controlled more by how we have learnt to interpret photographic images through exposure to them than the actual shutter speed used. There is no effect of using *shutter speed x* that has an *absolute meaning y* in photography but only how it relates to your experience and memory of what you've seen before and what it reminds you of.

    I wish we would get past this ridiculous argument of it being the things we control on the camera that controls the image. We should start looking at the subject and understand how we relate to what we see, not look at the camera and try to define the image in terms of how *it* sees. Cameras and settings are largely transparent to viewers and don't control the output in quite the *absolute* way that many photographers like to believe.

    Bokeh though is the way a lens renders the OOF. Lenses focus once, They don't continually focus and build a picture. Lenses are corrected more for their point of focus than they are for the OOF. So you get aberrations on the OOF cones, typically because when focussed light of all wavelengths is corrected to bend the same amount, but OOF this is not always true. Lenses can create circles with distinct rings of colour and dependant on the background can produce rings that either stand out or create a more soft and beautiful rendering, they vary in how they render the front OOF to the rear OOF. Consider the two images below. In the first, shot with an MF Nikkor 50/1.4 which is no slouch for bokeh, you can see the aperture shaped highlights in the background as distinct shapes. They are not how you expect backgrounds to look and so can stand out or be *distracting*. Some fast lenses produce distinctive *swirly* bokeh at the edges when used wide open simply because of the "ovaling" of the aperture at the edges of the frame making the image consistent with a kind of progressive swirl. We see and respond to the pattern more than we see the actual background.

    In the second image, shot with a Nikkor 105/2.5 into the light with a brighter background, there is a beautiful softening of both the fore and background leaves. There is no super-imposed pattern of aperture but simply the pattern of the leaves softening.

    This is bokeh and makes a big difference to how you see and interpret the image, though the actual aperture used on both shots can be varied by quite a bit without changing how your audience interpret the image in both cases.

    _DSC1759_sRGB_sm.jpg

    img205_sm.jpg

    With a final image again with the Nikkor 105/2.5 but on digital we see the same, a softened background and not the shape of the lens aperture super-imposed on it, again you could vary the actual aperture by quite a bit without changing how your audience sees and interprets the image. It is not the softening of the background that separates but the relative difference in sharpness *between* the fore and background that does, you can vary this and still create the same effect as long as a difference is maintained. The subject is the people and not the background, which most viewers won't really notice and so makes little difference to the image other than relative colour and assumed setting:

    _DSC8099_sRGB_ss.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
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  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It seems to me that the biggest flaw in his "study" was the fact that he shot his large aperture shots at f1.2. It doesn't surprise me even a tiny bit that people want the subject to be in focus. I think if he repeated this, using say, f4 so that the subject was tack-sharp each and every time, the results might be drastically different.
     
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  7. dunfly

    dunfly No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A prime example of: if you don't know what you are talking about, you should keep your mouth shut.
     
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  8. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Or.... just keep flapping your gums and people will flock to your YouTube channel! :lol:
     
  9. VidThreeNorth

    VidThreeNorth No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    These days, when I watch videos or even read articles, I try to give some "benefit of doubt" to misuse of terms and confused thinking. Partly I do this because I know that having gotten older, my own writing is getting sloppier and I do tend to get mixed up about what I write. And I know that people in videos often do much worse simply because they are nervous in front of the camera. And yes, I was aware that I was giving him a lot of "leeway" when I watched this video for the first time. I think having read the comments here and thought about it more, I might have give too much "benefit of the doubt" for this video.

    The first question is whether he understands bokeh enough to comment on it. Was he just assuming that it was simply the amount of blurring? I think here I was wrong to assume that he knew the difference. Thinking about the video, he never demonstrated that.

    That leads to my second error: Assuming he knew the difference, I allowed that he might have selected lenses for his sample pictures that conformed to his preferences in bokeh. There is nothing in the video that indicates that he did this. He probably selected his lenses on more common factors, typical of most photographers, and if he feels that the lens makes his pictures better looking than the same setup using a different lens, he might not know why.

    So he did not prove what he thought that he proved, and he did not prove what I thought he was trying to prove (which were already different).

    Was there any value in the video? I think so. I think that it pointed the way towards a test that could be performed with a bit more effort that might say something of value.

    If the test is changed like this:

    Select a lens that conforms to ones preferred bokeh characteristics (assuming you can practically do this in some general way -- which is not necessarily the case because photographers who care about bokeh might prefer different bokeh for different pictures). Then take pictures showing what one feels is the "optimum" degree of background blurring, and then shoot a few more pictures with more or less background blurring. Then put those pictures through the survey.

    What it might show is that regardless of the preferred bokeh style, sometimes the viewing public just likes to see a more detailed background (maybe even more detailed than a photographer might think). And of course, that will depend on whether the scene has an interesting, or well composed, or "nice" background to begin with.

    I can't see it being worth the effort, but if someone else does it, well, yes I'd be interested in seeing it.
     
  10. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    The speaker failed to correlate people's degree of "like" with what is ordinary subject separation. So you get more people liking a photograph in which the subject is clearly separated from the background AND that is in focus. He did not factor that into his study results.

    He also did not make the point that way too many newbies think shooting at f/1.2 is "cool", because their phone camera doesn't do that. That's a sure way to impress the Great Unwashed, and become the latest in a flood of one-lens "professionals". "Everybody on (insert name of social media here) just LOVES my photos, guess I can start making some easy money."

    So maybe the photographer just needs to understand his equipment and how to use it to create the photo he wants.
     
  11. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    He did admit that his study was lacking in scientific integrity.

    BTW: the various types of blur have already been posted (somewhere). A search should turn it up. The problem with that is that the lens data was missing or incomplete. (as I recall)
     
  12. cgw

    cgw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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