The Bane of Bokeh or How NOT to Stand out from the Herd

I wrote this in response to a YouTube subject regarding Bokeh, link after my comments:

In my business as a Fashion Photographer…shallow depth of field is out of fashion… wide angle all in focus and raw is what is happening now. Of course, you can mix in the few blown out shots as part of the whole 8-12 page story but…bye Bye Bokeh!

Haute Couture SS 2018

The systematic blurred background is way out of fashion in fashion photography today. When used, it is often done to balance the story, i.e. 8-14 pages with wide angle raw in your face all in focus composition oriented images and your classic herd mentality blurred background images. However, one of the major reasons many of us would use that “300mm f/2.8” look was quite banal. It was so people could see the fashion well and it would look like shooting in a soft daylight studio, with a wash of colour that the photographer could control just by moving rotating their lens by one degree.

Alexis Kapaun in Athleisure by Benjamin Kanarek

Often you would know the clothing colours beforehand and chose complimentary coloured backgrounds that would enhance the overall image. That IS a style and done for a reason, as I have done here for ELLE magazine. But the systematic use of bokeh for the sake of bokeh doesn’t make you stand out from the rest, it makes you as common as margarine on dry toast. It is the contrast that makes an image stand out in a story. That is why I will often do some B&W images mixed in with colour to just make the whole story more interesting and varied. SYSTEMATIC use of totally blown out backgrounds is old and mind-numbing. That’s not me speaking, that is the overwhelming majority of magazine editors speaking and I know, because I work for them. Bokeh used without understanding the reason why is flagrant herd mentality. So make your images interesting and think about what you wish to accomplish to stand out from the crowd. 

Nikon 300mm f/2.8

My Addendum:

The whole bokeh thig is now officially old news and although not relevant to certain sectors, in mine bokeh is passe….So to rephrase this and on a very practical note…In the fashion industry, “That” blown out look is now officially out of fashion. Of course, you can mix blown out scenarios with scenarios where the background is more in focus, but for all intent and purposes that blurry look is out in a big way. Now of course as it is for everything, that will take time to catch on and by the time it does the styles will change. But in my metier fashion, where I am in a position to set trends that is where we are at.

Of course, you do whatever it is that makes you happy, but, that is a totally different story, you aren’t competing on my terrain. But if you are you probably already know what I am talking about.

Now, for those of you about to get testy, no need to do so, again do what ever you like, but if you are trying to get into the ELLE’s, Harper’s BAZAAR’s and VOGUE’s of the world…

A Bientot


Alexis Kapaun in Athleisure for ELLE by Benjamin Kanarek

Mixed Bag from 24 to 85mm all Nikon.

Gao Ying is Blonde Bombshell for SORBET by Benjamin Kanarek

YouTube Link

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…