2016 has witnessed a fair share of design and performance tweaks in smartphones. There have been numerous improvements (at least the companies would like to call them that) but what we think has caught the eyes of many people and seems stuck like ants on a candy is the emergence of dual cameras in smartphones.

Dual cameras were introduced a while ago but in 2016 the technology caught on like wildfire. Everyone started talking about dual cameras after a number of brands stacked them on the back of their smartphones including companies like Apple, Huawei, LG and Honor. And one feature which became a rage after Apple introduced dual cameras was the ability of the smartphone’s camera to create a bokeh effect in the user’s pictures. Although the technology has been around for a while and has been present in the other phones with dual cameras as well but it looks like the Cupertino company played the bokeh card really well.

best-bokeh-apps

Now if you are scratching your head and wondering what bokeh is, here is a simple primer. The word bokeh is basically derived from a Japanese term called Boke which in Japanese means blur. Bokeh is basically created by using depth of field where the object in focus and out of focus are taken into consideration. Well, if this has killed some of your brain cells, let us revive them by explaining this in simple language: Bokeh is an effect which blurs out the background in an image so that the subject stands out.

While there has been a belief around the fact that Bokeh can be only created by high-end DSLRs or smartphones with dual cameras, the fact is: THERE IS AN APP FOR IT. Well, actually several apps.

So, if you are in the mood to do some bokeh-ing, here are six apps that we think you should check out:

1. Patch

Patch is one app which screams ‘bokeh-bokeh’ out loud. The app which claims to work best with portrait photos or photos with one or two people in them but we think it works just fine with any other picture as well. The application uses what is called a ‘semantic segmentation’ network which picks out pixels from a picture and attempts to differentiate between the subject and the background.

Patch-bokeh

Using Patch is no rocket science. One can just download the application from iTunes App Store for free. As soon as you launch the app on your phone it will start working instantly. Yes, no disclaimers, conditions or boring tutorials with this on. Patch allows you to select a picture from your gallery and blurs the background after processing it. The app, unfortunately, does not allow you to take pictures through the app itself but hey, it does the job just fine on the existing images. It allows you to select the intensity of the blurriness of the picture and if you do not like the parts of the picture the app has blurred, you can just tap on the brush placed on top and select the “patch” you want to keep in focus, thus the name Patch. The app is available on iTunes App Store for you to download for free.

Download from iTunes
Price: Free

2. Portrait Blur

As soon as you launch it, the app will declare in your face that you do not really need the iPhone 7’s dual camera to get the depth of field (in geeky terms) in your pictures – the app will do it for you. Once you download the app, it will throw three (boring) slides at you, explaining what you can do with the app. As the name suggests, the app works best with portrait images. You can either take images from the application or can select the images from your phone gallery. As soon as you select the picture, the app will do its magic which will take a few seconds and voila! you will have the bokeh effect in your picture.

PortraitBlur-bokeh

Unlike Patch, Portrait Blur provides you with various editing options which you can use on your picture. Of course, they revolve just around the depth of field. The options include Bokeh, Focus Size, Sharpen, Blur and Big Blur to enhance the quality of your Bokeh. Portrait Blur also offers additional premium features for editing which will be available to you at INR 70 per month. Portrait Blur is available for free on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

Download from iTunes
Price: Free

3. Fab Focus

FabFoucs-bokeh

Fab Focus welcomes you with a slightly graphical introduction with a tip suggesting you take portraits with a distant background. You can take pictures with the camera or you can just select a picture from your gallery. The app claims to turn your regular portraits into pictures with DSLR-like depth of field, which it creates by using a system based on artificial intelligence (or so it claims). After taking/choosing the picture, you can just press the start icon placed below the picture and the application will start detecting the face and background and other things in the picture, and will then work on the image accordingly. The app also offers you various editing options through which you can boost the quality of the image and add your own touches here and there. You can also work on the mask which selects the area to be blurred on your own just like Patch but unlike Patch, Fab Focus will not be easy on your pocket. To download the application from iTunes App store, you would have to shell out INR 190.

Download from iTunes
Price: Rs. 190 ($2.99)

4. After Focus

Another app which plays around the concept of bokeh really smartly is After Focus. After Focus is an app which is available on Google Play store and is free. Once you click the picture or select the picture from the gallery the app will ask you whether you want a Smart or a Manual method to select the area in focus which the app can remember for the next time if you want. The app also shows you a graphically driven tutorial to zoom and pan the picture.

AfterFocus-bokeh

It might seem a little complex as compared to all the other apps we have used, but it will allow you to select the area if you have opted for manual mode, after which you can make the alterations in the image by pressing Next, which will take you to another interface that allows you to choose between five different options including Blur, Aperture, Fading BG (background), Filter and Effect. The app is small in size but will take some getting used to. That said, it can deliver impressive results.

Download from Google Play Store
Price: Free

5. Image Blur

Apart from the fact that all these apps create a blurred background for your images, one other thing which has been consistent throughout these bokeh applications is the way they work. The apps discussed above mainly use patches or create a mask around your subject, blurring everything else in the frame. Image Blur is a little different. This application works just manually. The application will give you four different options including Camera, Gallery, Free and More which perform different functions in the app. You can either choose a file from your existing pictures or click a new picture through the application. Once you have selected the file, Image Blur will present you with options like; Zoom, Blur, Undo, Brush, Reset and Share. All these functions will be applied to the image manually, once selected.

ImageBlur-bokeh

Image Blur is available on Google Play Store and all the users who want to use their pictures as their own canvas and do not want the algorithms to work on them can opt for this app. And the best part: it is free!

Download from Google Play Store
Price: Free

6. Insta Bokeh

For most people, bokeh is simply a matter of blurring the background and getting a DSLR kind of depth of field, but there is more to bokeh – for some people it even involves changing the textures and colors of the background. And this app works on this other side. Insta Bokeh is an app which might not blur the background in your picture but can help you create the bokeh effect in your image slightly differently. The app allows you to put virtual layers on your picture. The app which can be installed from Google Play Store is available for free.

InstaBokeh

It offers four major bokeh effects that include; Romantic Sky, Tender Night, Dream World and Favorite Text. All of these effects will provide you with different virtual layers which can be just added to your picture. You can choose to click the picture from the app or you can alter an existing picture with Insta Bokeh. Once you select one of the categories, the app will offer you with numerous other filters present in each category. You can just choose whichever filter you like and can just slap it on your picture. We know, it is not conventional bokeh as most people know, but hey, there is no harm in trying out a new thing, is there? And it IS bokeh after all.

Download from Google Play Store
Price: Free

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Feature Writer

Akriti Rana holds a degree in journalism and mass communication. She has reported on mobile technology and gadgets for My Mobile, and has interned with the Hindustan Times, India News and The Yellow Coin Communication. She loves writing, reading, dogs and food (in an order of preference that varies on deadlines and proximity) and has of late taken to tussling with cameras.