Making custom bokeh for your lenses can be a fun project. Usually, photographers do it by crudely cutting shapes out of a piece of black card and taping it to the end of our lens. But this method doesn’t allow for a lot of detail or intricacy. There’s also the Bokeh Masters Kit, which comes with some interesting laser cut custom shapes, and a few spare discs to make your own.
But whether you make your own from scratch, or use the Bokeh Masters Kit, there is another way to make your own custom bokeh designs. This method from photographer Micael Widell uses sheets of transparencies along with a printer to create his custom shapes. And in this video, he shows you how he does it.
After realising how bad he is at cutting shapes out of paper, Micael started to think about other ways he could make custom bokeh. That’s when he had the idea to use Xerox Premium Transparencies, designed for overhead projectors. He would create his designs in the computer, then simply print on the sheet, and cut them easily to size.
There are at least two types of transparency sheets, though. One for ink jet printers, and one for laser printers. So, be sure to get the correct one for the printer you wish to use, or you might need to buy a new printer. Micael used a laser printer for his method.
Micael creates an array of images to fit onto a sheet within Photoshop. You’ll want your images to be as black and white as possible. He does this using a curves adjustment layer.
Then it’s just a case of sending it to the printer. I would suggest making sure to tell the printer to print at maximum quality. This will increase the density of toner on the transparency, and help to ensure that black really is black. Then it’s just a case of cutting them out.
With the shape cut out, it’s time to make the holder. That begins with choosing which lens you wish to use. Micael uses the Samyang 135mm f/2 lens for his tests, as it allows for a very shallow depth of field. The holder itself is made from a black velvet sheet, with an adhesive backing. This helps to prevent light from reflecting inside the holder.
He then cuts a hole in the centre, over which the transparency will be placed. The adhesive backing on the velvet keeps it held tight to the front of the lens housing, without requiring it to wrap completely around the end of your lens. Then the transparency is held onto the velvet with electrical tape.
Then, just point it at something, and shoot away. Obviously, as you’re covering part of the lens opening, you will lose some light, but your in-camera meter should be able to compensate.
Whether shooting stills or making video, they can add some great interest to your shot.
You can also use this method to create custom sheets to use with the Light Blaster, too.