how to add bokeh in lightroom

Of the many edits you can make to your wedding photography, Bokeh is one of the hottest effects. You can create this effect using a camera and lens, or you can use Adobe Lightroom to create this effect after you have already taken the image. We put together a wedding photography editing tutorial to help you understand the basics of bokeh, as well as how to add bokeh in Lightroom to create unforgettable images for your clients.

How to Add Bokeh in Lightroom

Photographers love showing off their skills by incorporating bokeh into their photos. Wedding photographers, in particular, love using it to create an even more romantic setting. As a photo editor for photographers, we take the majority of photography edits off your plate. For adjustments that continue to highlight your unique photography style, like adding bokeh to images, we know it is important for you to understand the proper use of this technique so you feel comfortable with it and can quickly apply it.

What Is Bokeh?

Bokeh (or otherwise known as boke) is a Japanese word. Its literal translation means, “to blur.” In photography, this is exactly what the photographer does when adding bokeh.

There are many uses of the bokeh technique. Sometimes a wedding photographer uses this technique to force the viewer’s eye to focus only on one subject in the photo. Other times this technique is used to create an artistic effect in a photograph. This is one of the most popular techniques in photography, as using bokeh for wedding photos will give your work a whimsical and dreamy quality. Learning how to create bokeh in Lightroom and add it to your images is a valuable tool to have as a wedding photographer.

Tips on Adding Bokeh

Here are a few quick tips before you find out how to add bokeh in Lightroom:

  • Try to play around with the blur tools Lightroom provides before working on client photos.
  • Bokeh is not necessarily an easy skill to learn, so do not get discouraged if it takes some practice to master this technique.
  • Try using both of the techniques below before committing to just one.

Why Add Bokeh

Bokeh is used by wedding photographers for a variety of reasons. Many wedding photographers use this technique to create a romantic atmosphere in photos. Some photographers love bringing the subject to the foreground of the photo and allowing the minor subjects to blur into the background.

This effect works particularly well with wedding photos because it allows you to focus only on the bride and groom, creating the illusion that they are the only ones in a roomful of people. This technique also works well for wedding food photography as you can focus on the wedding cake while blurring the other items on the table into the background.

How Easy is Adding Bokeh?

Although bokeh is an extremely popular technique, it is relatively easy to apply it to photos incorrectly. When added incorrectly, an image can be extremely unpleasant to the eye, which is the opposite of what you want for your wedding clients.

When you apply bokeh in the right way, your photos will look professional, and your subjects will naturally pop off the background. It will naturally draw the eyes to the photo and create a pleasant experience. If you apply this technique incorrectly, you will know it immediately. Improperly used bokeh looks strange and is uncomfortable on the eyes. Luckily, Lightroom has made it a little easier to apply this technique to your photos.

Steps to Add Bokeh

Anyone wanting to learn how to add bokeh in Lightroom should first understand that using this technique is much more complicated than simply blurring a photo. When you blur a photo in Lightroom, you are generally blurring one specific part of the photo or even the entire photo.

To add bokeh, you will need to blur the entire background. There are two ways you can do this.

Blur the Background

This technique is easier to employ if you have a small area you do not want to be blurred (and we share more about blurring the background here). If your blurred area is small, you may want to skip to the next technique.

Step 1: Open or import the photo you want to work with.

Step 2: Switch to Lightroom’s “Develop” mode.

lightroom develop mode
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 3: Select the adjustment brush to create a background mask.

choose brush for blur
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 4: Paint the background of the image in Lightroom to create a mask. Change the size of the brush when needed to carefully select the parts of the image that needs to be blurred.

lightroom settings blur background
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 5: Adjust the blur effect as necessary with clarity and sharpness filters to achieve your desired blur for the background.

add bokeh example
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Blur Specific Objects

If you have only a few objects or parts of your photo you want to blur, you can just blur those sections.

Step 1: Open or import the photo you want to edit.

Step 2: Switch to Lightroom’s “Develop” mode.

develop module in lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 3: Select the adjustment brush to create a Bokeh mask for the object you would like to add Bokeh to.

choose adjustment brush for bokeh
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 4: Use the slider to determine how much you would like to blur certain areas of your photo.

blur object lightroom slider
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Step 5: Select the objects you want to blur. Use the blur tool to change the sharpness of different objects.

bokeh added to object in lightroom
Image by Brian Hatton Photography

When it comes to learning how to add bokeh in Lightroom, the best rule of thumb is to be as patient as possible with your process. Learning bokeh is not a skill you can learn overnight. Just like your other wedding photography skills, practice is key.

Adding bokeh to images in Lightroom is only one of the adjustments you can make to your images after they are edited by a wedding photo editor (like ShootDotEdit). You can add text to your images, whiten teeth for your couples, and much more.

There are also several ways to use Lightroom in a way that helps you speed up your post-wedding workflow. Throughout our Online Training: Advanced Lightroom Skillsets, expert Jared Platt focuses on how to maximize Lightroom to create a fast and efficient workflow for your photography business.

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