Orientation On Shaped Bokeh

About 5 years ago we posted our first shaped bokeh tutorial, it has been on the top 5 popular posts lists for almost every day since. Over the time we amassed a huge wealth of information about shaped bokeh and I really thought we covered everything that there is to cover about it.

Hack job

Guess not.

Flickr user RXrenesis8 shared two bokeh images that got me learning something new. Shaped bokeh has an orientation.

If you are in to shaped bokeh, you already know that any out of focus highlight dot will assume the shape of the mask (a.k.a. hole) you place in front of the aperture. This is what this trick is all about.

But it turns out that the orientation of the shape depends if the highlighted dot is in front or behind the focus plane.

Highlights that are behind of the focus plane will have the same orientation as the bokeh mask. Where as light that are in front of the focus plane will appear flipped.

See this demonstration from RXrenesis8. Notice how the close arrows (drops on window) have one orientation, and the far arrows have the opposite oriantation:

Going against the flow

This actually makes sense if you think on how the lens flips the image before it hits the sensor.