Bokeh on Brighton clock tower

Photo: Dominic Alves/Flickr

The beauty of the blur

You may not have heard of bokeh before, but once you learn what this hallmark of photography is, you'll begin to notice it everywhere.

To put it simply, bokeh is a photographic term used to describe the aesthetic character of light in the out-of-focus portion of an image. The word is derived from the Japanese word "boke," which means blur or haze.

This phenomenon is sometimes accompanied by prominent "bokeh balls," which are the disc-like aberrations rendered from unfocused points of light. See the hundreds of hazy lights descending from the clock tower in the image above? That is bokeh.

The key to incorporating this lovely effect into your own photography is to shoot with a shallow focus and a large aperture setting. This technique is useful for photographing all kinds of situations, including portraits, food, nature and much more.

Scroll down for more gorgeous examples of the limitless possibilities of bokeh!

* * * 
 
Bokeh and spider web

Photo: dorena-wm/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh dog

Photo: Charlie Stinchcomb/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and heron in water

Photo: Takashi Hososhima/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and autumn leaf

Photo: florence richerataux/500px

* * * 
 
Bokeh and Florida Panther, Willow

Photo: Catie Leary

* * * 
 
Bokeh and flowers

Photo: seyed mostafa zamani/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and albino rattlesnake

Photo: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh in a field with a man

Photo: /Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and lounging cat

Photo: 55Laney69/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh behind orchid

Photo: Anna Norris/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and sea birds on rocks

Photo: Jim Frost/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and plant glowing golden

Photo: Anne Worner/Flickr

* * * 
 
Bokeh and bee on a flower

Photo: jenny downing/Flickr

* * * 
 
Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.