This video is an introduction to the Bokeh features in Exposure, including controls, lens selections, highlight boosting and grain matching.

Photo: Jimmy Beech, Robert Lounsberry, Robert Hamilton

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh beautifully renders realistic-looking creative focus effects. So what is Bokeh? It is the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of an image, and it occurs in different varieties, depending on the lens. Exposure’s bokeh replicates the unique characteristics of many popular lenses, in addition to zoom effects and other creative looks.

I’ll start with Exposure open. The Bokeh panel is on the right dock. When the panel is open, notice the focus region controls that appear in the large preview image in the middle of the screen. When the panel is closed, these controls disappear, but any blurring effects will still be displayed.

I like to preview any effects without obscuring my image with the controls, so I will close and open the panel while I’m working. I can also use ⌘+Zero or Ctrl+Zero on Windows to toggle the Bokeh panel.

Focus Regions

Bokeh’s effects are controlled by focus regions. They specify areas to protect from the blur effect. You can keep your subject in focus while blurring areas around it. There are three different types of regions: radial, planar, and half planar.

Let’s go over the behavior of each type of focus region. First, I’ll increase the amount slider to add some blur so that we can see what the effect is doing.

We’ll start with the radial focus region, which is added by default when you first open the Bokeh panel. It’s easy to adjust the size and location of the regions. Click and drag within the region to move it. To stretch and resize, click and drag the gray handles. As you move from the solid line to the dotted line, the effect transitions from sharp to blurred. Drag the dotted line to adjust the width of the transition.

Radial regions work really well on portraits to draw attention to the subject.

Before I place another region, I’m going to get rid of the radial region with the trash can button. Since there’s no focus region, the entire image is now blurred. Now let’s take a look at the planar focus regions. They come in two types, planar and half planar. Planar blurs the image in both directions from the center line, while half planar blurs the image in only one direction from the center line. I’ll create a planar region.

Again, we can move the region by dragging. Click and drag the solid line to change the angle of the effect. The dotted lines indicates where the blurring effect reaches the maximum.

Because the planar region blurs in both directions from the center line, it’s useful for simulating a tilt shift effect to make a landscape shot look like a miniature model. You can also use it on close-up portraits to focus attention on the eyes.

Lens Selection

Working with the tools on the Bokeh panel is simple. Start at the top and work your way to the bottom. It’s the same with all of the panels, so if you’re ever in question about what to do first, try working through the controls the same way.

The presets list is the best way to quickly find the effect you’re looking for. There are creative aperture shapes, motion effects, and presets that mimic the look and feel of real lenses.

The amount slider controls how much to blur the image. At zero you won’t see any effect, so this is a good place to start making adjustments. Zoom adds a smear to the effect like zooming the lens while the aperture is open. Twist alters the zoom effect to create spiral and spinning motion effects.

Bokeh highlights are the bright out-of-focus points of light in your image.

The creamy slider controls the look of the distinctive bokeh highlights. When the slider is placed at an extreme positive value, it will make smooth highlights. Low negative values have hollow highlights. See the ring-shaped highlights when this value is set low?

Select an aperture shape by clicking this control. Curvature controls the aperture shape. It won’t work if the aperture shape is already round or heart shaped. Positive values make the aperture shape more round. Negative values make it more concave.


Turn up the boost slider to brighten the bokeh highlights. Raising the threshold makes more highlight appear.

Grain Matching

Exposure’s grain panel is unaffected by the bokeh panel’s blurring. If your original image already has grain, Bokeh will blur it out. Use grain matching to introduce grain into the blurry areas of your image. Adjust the strength and size sliders to match the grain in the unblurred areas of your photo. If you’re adding grain from the grain panel, it’s best to turn that panel off while you make adjustments to the grain matching feature.