Foreground Bokeh Techniques with Portraits

You may have heard that you should never put something out of focus in the foreground of your images. Some say that a viewer’s eyes will keep coming back to it, and it could become a major distraction in your composition. But Mark Wallace seems to have a completely different take on this. He deliberately uses out of focus foreground elements to add depth to his images:

When inclement weather forced this shoot indoors, Wallace used an ingenious technique to add depth to his images and make them look as if they had been shot outdoors. He added some foreground elements and rendered them out of focus by shooting with a really wide aperture.

To pull off a similar look, you’ll need a wide aperture lens (f/1.8 or wider), a tripod, and some LED lights. Rather than bringing in extra lights, Wallace illuminated his model with the LED continuous lights inside the studio.

front bokeh portraits

The wide aperture of the lens blurs everything that’s not in focus, which in this case was a chain of Christmas LED lights. The lights, which were placed in front of the subject, went out of focus and provided the front bokeh effect.

Wallace used these settings: 1/90 of a second, ISO 400, and f/1.4. He shot with a Leica with a manual focusing 50mm f/1.4 lensin manual mode.

foreground bokeh techniques

If you’re looking to replicate this look, shoot in manual mode. As soon as you bring in the lights, the auto-exposure feature on your camera will try to change the exposure based on the lights and the general ambient lighting of the room.

You might also want to use live-view mode. It allows you to get a better feel of the composition and also to perfect the exact look when you move the lights farther away or closer to the subject.

the foreground bokeh technique
how to use foreground blur
tips on foreground bokeh

Have you tried this technique?

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

One response to “Foreground Bokeh Techniques with Portraits”

  1. Vaughn says:

    Just tried this technique out worked well. Thanks Mark your tips are always appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever