DIY – Create Your Own Bokeh

create your own BokehBokeh is an adaptation from a a Japanese word meaning blur. In photography this term is used to describe the quality of the areas in the picture which are not in focus.

When referring to Bokeh, we can distinguish some of it characteristics:

- Is the light/dark gradient smooth or sharp?

- What shape will a small dot of light take what it is in the Bokeh area? (mirror lenses for example, create a bagel like Bokeh)

We can play with those two variants to create a special Bokeh.

You will need :

1. Cut and shape the sheet to make a fake lens hood. The Diameter is made so that it snugly fits on the lens.

DIY Bokeh 01

2. In the middle of the filter the wanted bokeh shape is cut out – in out example a heart is used. I’m not sure how big a hole the shape can be. But you can check it right away by just looking through the viewfinder. On the 50mm lens @ F1.8 a 15mm heart gives a metering value equal to F3.2, so it can probably be a little bigger (you can use a puncher or cut it by hand).

3. Set your camera to its lowest aperture value (completely open).

Here are two shots to demonstrate this technique  – one with a bare lens and the other with the hearted hood. see more shots here and here (I leave it as an exercise to tell which is which :)

heart bokehregular bokeh

Here are the parameters for the example shown above:

  • Lens – Canon 50mm F1.8
  • “Lens hood” Diameter: 70mm (2.75 inch)
  • Hole diameter: 15mm (0.6inch)

Here are two more great examples for this technique from RottieLover (note – there only one “real” heart in each picture):

heart shape Bokeh 01

heart shape Bokeh 02

Do you have a cool bokeh? show off on the comments or on the flickr group.

If you like the effect there is also a commercial version available – the Bokeh Masters Kit.

This article was contributed by Karsten Stroemvig (aka Lullaby), see his other great photograph projects, or browse through our readers projects section.

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Some More Cool Stuff:
The Cheapest Ring Light Ever
Removing The Mystery From The Heart Shaped Bokeh Thing
The Ghetto Studio
Painting With Light
The Best 6 Ways To Create Your Own Bokeh

The Following Lenses Will Give Great Bokeh Effects:

  • Lajos Andrejkovics

    Tinkering is a nice thing…however buying the master kit for $25 is one heck of a deal! Now waiting for the postman :D

  • Christopher

    It helps to have a lens with a wider aperture than the “kit” lens. The wider open your lens is the shallower your depth of field will be (field of focus – let’s say you focus on someone’s face, whatever is in front of or behind that distance will be out of focus and that is the area where the “bokeh” is. Since you have a Canon camera get the 50mm f/1.8 lens as it is a great value for a great lens.

  • Lago

    Try on the 55mm end, although it is f5.6 it gives better DOF than the 18mm end.

  • AmericanSumo

    Here are some instructions on making your own lasercut bokeh filters … even if you don’t own a laser cutter! Enjoy!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F35qMEcxU8U

  • olivia

    amazing!

  • Vic Ruiz Dionisio Crizaldo

    COOL! :)

  • HopeNotHateBNP

    Interesting topic, might try it and surprise the GF!

  • gaurav

    Can you tell me which lens you used to take that dog photo?
    I am not getting that sharp an bokeh with my Canon 50mm 1.8

  • Zita Gita

    i did this and it gives me more like vignette and not bokeh…

  • http://www.brypix.com Peter Bryenton

    very pretty example of this simple but effective technique for shaping boukeh effects. This image took me back in time instantly to my student days and optics theory. Putting an aperture in front of the main lens was standard practice in the days of early Victorian brass and mahogany giant cameras. There were little wooden accessory boxes containing sets of metal slides with circular holes cut in them, of various sizes (think knitting needle measuring guage). They were called Waterhouse Stops after their inventor. Some professional photographers still talk about stopping down, opening up two stops, f-stops. It was all about stopping too much light from going down the lens. Out of focus areas from bright light sources almost always take up the shape of the hole. As learners we experimented with crosses, triangles and suchlike. The heart icon was not a mainstream idea in 1973 but it will be very popular nowadays I’m sure. BryPix.com

    • http://www.brypix.com Peter Bryenton

      bokeh (What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet; [as Juliet said].

  • M

    At first, the bokeh was not working for me.
    BUT I figured out that the shape you want has to be at least half a centimeter big. I guess it depends on the lens as well. I am using a 18-55mm lens and it works perfectly. It also depends on how far you are away from the light. So, you have to do some experimenting.

    Hope that helps.