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Artistic / aesthetic use of Bokeh?


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A lot of the reason the bokeh look feels overdone is that it's cheaper to buy a fast lens and open it up on a night scene than light up a huge area and stop down. So with the flood of content from cheaper cameras and less-experienced filmmakers, we tend to see that look a lot.

Aesthetically speaking, though, the only thing that matters is how the story works, how a particular shot makes the audience feel in the telling of the story. 

The dreamy quality of bokeh can't be denied. Even Wes Anderson uses it from time to time:



 The other is a grab from my film where a tough-talking street dude is also surprisingly witty. The bokeh enhances the dreamy-turns-nightmarish quality of the scene as the lead character is has fallen asleep on the subway and wakes up in an unfamiliar neighborhood. But for other night scenes we pushed the ISO and stopped down to mitigate the effect.


The key is to have total control of the image as a storytelling tool. Bokeh is a part of image-making, so use it as it suits the content.

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