Bokeh Review

April 28, 2009 | Jon Canfield | Software Reviews | |

The Vignette tab (Figure 10) lets you select a natural shape or one that follows the outline of your selection. You can change the color, intensity, size, and softness of the vignette.

BokehFigure 10

If you want to go for an artistic look with your images, you can also select from one of the cutout designs for your bokeh, like the Hearts shape shown in Figure 11. It's probably not something you'll use often, but it can add a special look to the right image. There are also star, diamond, and triangle shapes available.

BokehFigure 11

The Planar focus effect gives you the ability to mimic the focus fall off to give your images a realistic depth of field. Figure 12 shows the original image of this wolf in Yellowstone.

BokehFigure 12

After selecting the wolf and starting Bokeh, I choose the Selection + Planar option in the Bokeh tab. The start of the falloff is set by placing the end of the control line where you want it, and the distance is controlled by the length of the control line – the longer the line, the wider the spread between focus and soft. You can set the direction of the falloff by dragging the line at the angle you want to use. Figure 13 shows the settings I've used and the resulting focus change.

BokehFigure 13

Another example of the Planar control can be seen below. For this sample, I selected the Sony Zeiss Vario-sonnar 24-70 at f2.8 and reduced the Bokeh amount to 17%.

BokehFigure 14

BokehFigure 15

The Radial control works similar to the controls used in FocalPoint, which I reviewed earlier. Here, you set the size and shape of the radius to keep in focus, and the set the spread of the effect by dragging the selection controls. This works well to define a focal point in your image and have the focus drop off exactly the way you want. This can emulate a LensBaby or a tilt-shift lens (Figure 16).

BokehFigure 16

BokehFigure 17

Vignette controls go well beyond the typical vignetting you might be used to. With the ability to use your selection as the shape for the vignette, and to apply colors, you can create some interesting effects that are ideal for portrait photography. In the example shown in Figure 17, the vignette has been applied to the selection and given a blue color for a little boy (image courtesy of Alien Skin).

BokehFigure 18


Bokeh is an amazing piece of software. The more I use it, the more powerful it becomes. The ability to mimic expensive lenses so well effectively adds to my lens arsenal, including the ability to use lenses that I don't have available to me, like the Zeiss. I also like the ability to create new presets with the exact settings I want to use as a starting point.

The plug-in is intuitive to use and has a very short learning curve. Performance is better than I expected, especially on some of the more complex operations like the radial and planar blurs.

Bokeh works best with selections though, and I prefer to use masks for the greater flexibility that I have. You can certainly use a mask with Bokeh, but the entire preview will be blurred, making it less useful unless you make a selection from the mask. In spite of that, for anything that has soft edges, I will usually use a mask rather than the selection method.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Value for money 5