Want to join a new club?
It has the following benefits;
Going against the trend.
Going against commonly held beliefs.
Creative freedom in a way you may not have (deliberately) tried before.
It’s called the “Anti Bokeh” club.
The name is a bit misleading, because any image in any format in any circumstances with any transitional or fully out of focus areas has Bokeh, but the common thinking is more is more and less is irrelevant, so the “anti Bokeh as we know it” club.
What you need.
A (prime) lens or two set to an aperture that is 1-2 stops past it’s expected diffraction limitation (f8-11 on a M43 camera, 16-22 on a full frame). This will have the effect of increasing depth of field*, allowing reactive manual focus with a wide latitude for error and will gently soften the image in a pleasantly old fashioned way. There will still be some shallow depth when you are really close to things, but generally images will tell a story from front to back.
An ISO set a little too high for the camera’s comfort (if possible), but not so high that movement blur is impossible in poor light (1600 on an EM5 mk1, don’t bother on an A7s). This will have the dual benefits of desaturating colour a little and add a little texture (noise/grain) to the image. No noise reduction required unless excess colour blotching looks decidedly ugly and digital.
Manual focus (see above), allowing for some slight focus misses. Pay attention to the characteristics of your chosen lens.
Lean a little on negative exposure compensation for a little added mystery, saturated colour and deeper shadows and also to protect highlights.
A purposefully gentle, but determined post processing work flow, designed to find the hidden beauty inside the image, not the more overt digital perfection on the surface. It is up to you whether you use colour or black and white, but try to avoid “perfecting” either. Just go with the beauty.
*Remember, Bokeh is not just wide open performance. It is the rendering of any transitional or out of focus element in any image that does not have perfect focus everywhere.
Hopefully a deeper image emotionally, less fixated on technical perfection or technique, freeing up unused parts of the compositional brain.
And a little bit of do it yourself film camera therapy.