Blame it on the dual camera rage, but ‘bokeh’ has become one of the most talked about terms in mobile photography these days. As we explained in an article previously, Bokeh is a phenomenon of blurring out the background or part of your picture in order to make the foreground or a subject stand out. But is it really necessary to ditch your smartphone with a single camera and get a dual camera one to get bokeh in your pictures? That would be a very expensive affair! Of course, you do not necessarily have to create a bokeh-ed picture through the hardware. There are many apps that allow you to blur out the part of the picture that you want bokeh-ed. That said, installing different apps, learning how to use them, saving the edited version of the picture and then uploading, can be too much of task for many of us.

Why do all that when one of the most popular social media apps around lets you add bokeh to your images with minimum fuss?

We are talking about Instagram.

Yes, Instagram is better known as an image sharing social network and for its retro filter effects. But what not too many know is that it also comes with some rather powerful and yet simple to use image editing tools. And one of them is all about ‘Tilt shift’ or to use a more common term, bokeh. Using it is incredibly simple.

Here is how you go about it:

Step One: Get Instagram

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step1

To dumb it completely down for you, you need to install the Instagram app (details at and create an account on Instagram if you already do not have one (you can log in with your Facebook account too). The first step is to open up the Instagram app on your smartphone and look at the extreme down south of your Instagram feed page, which has five icons that help you navigate and use the app. You have to click on the icon which is exactly in the middle – the Plus icon. This icon allows you to add a new picture to your Instagram account.

Step two: Get a picture

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step2

Hitting the Plus icon will lead you to your image gallery on your phone (you might have to give Instagram permission to access the gallery). From there you have to select a picture that you would like to edit and share. Select a picture that you want to bokeh. Select a picture where is there is a lot of background, or there are elements in the background, this will give you more area to bokeh which will eventually make your subject stand out. You can also simply take a new photograph from within the app itself – just select ‘Photo’ at the bottom of the page that shows the gallery or click on the camera icon on the top left corner of your feed page.

Once you have selected the picture, there will be a blue “Next” icon placed on the extreme top right of your screen. Hit it to get to the next step of the process.

Step three: Filter it…or not!

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step3

You will come across the array of filters which are the main reason why the app is so popular. You can choose one of the filters offered on the list, and you can alter the degree of brightness and the degree to which the filter is applied to your picture. This step is optional, though. We are not talking about filters here. You can get back to the filters after you have bokeh-ed the image, or do the bokeh-ing after you have picked a filter. Your choice. Once you have decided on your filter or opted out of them altogether, head to the next step.

Step four: Forget the filters, go to edit!

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step4

For most people, this would be the end of the process of uploading pictures on the photo sharing app. But if you are looking for bokeh, the fun is just about to begin. Alongside the Filter icon (on its right), there is an Edit icon. Hit it. It will take you to an edit menu with the help of which you can change features of the picture such as Brightness and Contrast, amongst other things. No, it ain’t Photoshop, but it certainly is very handy.

Step five: Tilt Shift time

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step5

Swipe right in the Edit menu to see different options – the one that we are looking for is the second last one and is called: Tilt Shift. Tilt Shift is an edit option that will help you create artificial bokeh or software generated bokeh in your picture. Tilt Shift incidentally is a term that is used by many for bokeh.

Step six: Circular or linear

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step6

Tapping on the Tilt Shift button will bring up another menu that will offer you three options to choose from.

Off: which means the edit mode Tilt Shift is off in your picture and there is no bokeh in it.

Radial: choosing this option will offer you a circular ring inside of which, all the things will be in focus while everything outside will blurred out. You can manually choose the part of the picture that you want to keep in focus by selecting the option and then moving the circle on the screen. You can also increase or decrease the radius of the circle as per your liking.

Linear: this option will offer bokeh horizontally in your picture. This will cover the top and the base of the picture, and just like the Radial Bokeh option, you can move the area in focus and the space between the two bokeh bits that has to be in focus.

Speaking for ourselves, we prefer Radial as it looks more natural. But that is your choice totally.

Step seven: Right, now write!

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step7

Once you have selected the type of bokeh you want in your picture and you are done adjusting it, you can hit the Done on the base of the window on the extreme right side. This will take you back to the Edit menu where you will find the same blue Next icon on the top right which we talked about in the second step. Press it. Alternatively, you can hit “Filter” on the lower right portion, if you want to apply some filters to it. Hit Next after you have finishing filtering in that case.

Step eight: And share…and done!

[how to] bokeh, the instagram way - step8

You are almost through with the process. Now you just have to put on great caption along with the right hashtags and hit the share button and Voila! Your picture with on point bokeh is up on your Instagram feed.

Go ahead, make your (blurry) day with bokeh with Instagram.

Was this article helpful?