Is Bokeh Really That Important in Photography?

It seems now that the first thing most amateurs do is throw the background out of focus and try to get the nicest Bokeh they can. And you can’t blame them, images with Bokeh look great and create a nice contrast between your subject and the background. But is Bokeh really that important? Is it necessary? Is it hurting or helping you? Is it worth investing in a lens just because of its bokeh capabilities? Let’s take a look.

First and foremost, it must be said that it really depends on the type of photography you are interested in. Bokeh is used to highlight a subject, so it works well for portraits, commercial products, etc. When your background isn’t important or is maybe too ugly to focus on, it can help having a better bokeh lens. Bokeh can come in different shapes, sizes and looks. But in general, it is an “artistic removal” of your background/out of focus object. Using Bokeh may also help amateurs learn the more technical aspects of aperture, lens technology and engineering as well as subject and background placement.

But is all of that worth $1500 for an “art” lens? Maybe, maybe not. It is a great aid to portrait photography, especially in busy environments or for children. However, I think more and more amateurs are proving its a trend more so than a foundation of their skills. This itself may not be a big problem, but if you are a new photographer and are focusing on pretty little trendy effects, then you probably aren’t investing in learning the foundations very well (ISO, Exposure, Composition, etc).

But isn’t that what makes photography beautiful? Sure, different angles, different effects, different techniques can give amazingly different pictures of the same scene/subject. For each photographer the focus and budget will vary. Generally speaking, I think beginners should avoid obsessing over bokeh so they can afford better telephoto lenses and learn the foundations first.