Bokeh Review

4.5
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.

Bokeh Figure 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.

Bokeh Figure 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.

Bokeh Figure 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.

Bokeh Figure 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%.

Bokeh Figure 14

Bokeh Figure 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).

Bokeh Figure 16

Bokeh Figure 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).

Bokeh Figure 18

Conclusion

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

Entry Tags

lens, software, lenses, tilt-shift, blur, alien skin, vignette, bokeh, depth of field

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Your Comments

3 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Paul

More and more, a photo is just a starting point to make whatever image you desire. However smart this software is, I consider the result no longer a photo. Next thing, when you take a picture of your wife, software automatically replaces her with a stock photo of a model. Look how pretty my wife is.

10:02 pm - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

#2 Mark

Paul, I think you have a great idea on your hands there. You can call it “Wishful Thinking”

3:56 pm - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

#3 image enhancement

Great bit of information.  thanks.

7:18 am - Tuesday, May 12, 2009