Most will be familiar with bokeh even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, but few can explain how it actually works. Much like fascinators, or the offside rule.
The word comes from the Japanese word boke, which translates roughly as “blur”, and the term has only been around relatively recently in photography terms, having first been used in 1997 by an editor of a photography magazine (Mike Johnston of Photo Techniques). However bokeh doesn’t directly refer to the out of focus blur you see in a lot of images that feature a shallow depth of field; bokeh is about the quality and feel of this blur, and reflected points of light. What the viewer sees is round disc-like shapes that appear in the image, the result of light reflections; and they are circular due to the way that the lens rendered them. It’s not to be confused with a different phenonem, lens-flare - although all you J.J. Abrams fans will know this already.
Macro and telephoto lenses are generally a lot better at producing “good” bokeh, once the aperture is opened up and lighting conditions are favourable. Whatever the science and technicalities of bokeh, we do know one thing: they can often make images look extremely pretty. Here are some of the most gorgeous examples on the Picfair library.