The term bokeh refers to blur in an image.  But more specifically, it refers to blur used for aesthetic or artistic purposes not just “oops I did not focus properly blur.”   Good bokeh is generally used for parts of the image that are outside of the depth of field to render them blurred and distinguish them from the main focus of the photograph.  However, as with all of the rules of photography, sometimes you need to reinterpret them or outright break them.  If it makes sense to you to blur the entire image then go for it.  Since bokeh is an artistic effect it is open to the interpretation of the photographer and should be used to create an more beautiful image.

Example of bokeh in photography

You can achieve a bokeh effect in your photographs using the same principles you do to accomplish a shallow depth of field.  To manipulate the depth of field you can adjust several factors such as lens focal length, aperture, and shooting distance.  Using a large aperture (smaller f number) will give you a shallow depth of field in your images thereby blurring out the background of the scene.  You can also accomplish a full image bokeh effect by setting your camera to manual focus and intentionally not bringing your subject into clear focus.  Generally an over blurred image is considered a mistake and not bokeh.   But if you can pull it off and it works with the image you are presenting there is no reason not to experiment and see what you can come up with .

Example of bokeh in photography

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