Bokeh Portraits

While browsing around photography sites recently, I came across the excellent work of Twitter engineer and photographer Dustin Diaz. As soon as I saw his beautiful street pictures, I knew I wanted to attempt something similar for myself. When a couple of my friends volunteered themselves to brave the cold night air, it was time to take a shot at it.

This set of portraits was created as an experiment in learning how to control bokeh, and balancing flash with ambient light. The word ‘bokeh’ refers to the appearance of the out-of-focus areas of an image. Some of the challenges involved in this shoot were :

Finding appropriate locations

As is the case for many shoots, I used Google Maps to scope out possible locations. I was looking for areas that would have plenty of traffic lights, street lights or traffic. These would blur out into the lovely circular colours that I was trying for.

Getting accurate focus in areas of near-total darkness

The first three images in this set were taken from a carpark overlooking the Newcastle city. There was barely any light available for the camera to autofocus. We turned the headlights of the car on to focus, and then off so the light wouldn’t add to the final image. It was a little time consuming but got the job done. The last three images were shot with enough ambient light that we didn’t need the headlights.

Balancing flash with ambient light

These portraits required a delicate balance between the flash power on the subject and the brightness of the background. The flashes ended up being set to their minimum power (1/64th) to avoid overexposure.

You can find Dustian Diaz’s 365 project at .