DIY Photography Project: How to Make Custom Bokeh Shapes

0Comments

One effecct that many of our readers experiment is creating custom Bokeh shapes. It’s a fun DIY little project for a rainy day – this video tells you how to do it.

The video is by Lucas Ridley.

Further Reading on this topic: Aperture Mask – the Many Faces of Bokeh.

Read more from our category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Wow great video I always wondered how people did this. I bookmarked this for a a rainy day ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for sharing

  • I saw a page on shaped bokeh in the DPS forums and decided I would make my own kit. My aunt owns a scrap booking shop, so I stopped there and got some quality paper and used her CNC paper cutter and punches to make my set. I used a 2″ punch to create the circles and a 62mm step-up ring to mount them to my lens. You can see some of the cutouts below:

    [eimg link=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbecker813/4960277459/’ title=’Shaped Bokeh Kit’ url=’http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4112/4960277459_b4df92bbda.jpg’]

  • i love custom bokeh shapes!

    i have a protective UV filter on all my lenses, so all i did was cut out the circles to fit snugly within the sides of the filter, and did away with the supportive ring around the lens.

    it’s fun doing all shorts of shapes, but for some reason, my favorite is the simple square.

    here’s a set of some of my attempts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/toomanytribbles/sets/72157617857357730/

  • dok

    Very interesting video, had no idea about that.
    And btw, toomanytribbles : great photographs!

  • @dok thanks!

  • Wow! Thanks for posting my video! And thanks to everyone for watching!

  • If you already use Cokin/Lee filters, everything is much simplier — you just need 89x89mm (for Cokin P) piece of black paper, cut desired bokeh shape as shown in video and insert it into filter holder.

  • Garry

    You certainly can get some nice effects. I did the same as toomanytribbles cutting some black card into a circle and fitting it into a UV filter which was attached to my 50mm lens. I used one of my wifes craft paper punches to punch some designs into the paper. For my first attempt I hung up some christmas lights and this is what I got. http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryandhelena/2974379732/

  • Hans Maerker

    Hi Everybody,

    I read toomanytribbles’s comment about DYI shapes on DPS and actually sent her a short message with a few special links that might help her as well.

    As an afterthought, I think…. heck, why not sharing this with everybody here. Maybe there are a few people who haven’t heard about it yet. So…here is my share about a system that is already on the market for at least 30 years. The system is called COKIN and the originally idea (so many years ago) was to have only 1 (one) flexible creative filter system that could fit on all lens diameters with adapter rings.

    The system itself is at: http://www.cokin.com/ico1-p1.html
    The DIY special filters used in this holder) are at: http://www.cokin.com/ico3-p1-8.html

    If you don’t know already about COKIN, then their website is definitely worth a visit.
    No… I AM NOT promoting here something on behalf of Cokin. I’m just a loyal user who appreciated the creative filters in an analog age when digital filters like the ones from Nik were not on the market yet.

    Hans Maerker

  • On a rainy weekend in Paris, I had some fun doing just that. I did one called Bokeh Love.
    http://martinsoler.com/2010/06/03/bokeh-love-hearts-candles/
    I found out that the cutout in the cardboard needs to be quite small to get the effect. A too large cut out doesn’t work.
    The biggest “pain” was getting the cardboard piece to fit properly. Note: I put it in my UV filter, in order to get it out easily again, tape on a little tag that you can use to pull it out.

  • Playing with light is much fun ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @hans maerker the cokin kit looks very useful with all those filters, but just for the custom bokeh it seemed a bit too much for me — i prefer a little black construction paper and my trusty knife or paper puncher.

    @martin soler — i tried taping a bit of paper, like you recommended, to get the paper out of the UV filter, but eventually found it much easier to just fold the circle towards the edge and crease it, in order to always have that bit sticking out of the filter. the crease didn’t show up on the image at all.

    the size for the hole can be larger if your lens features a large aperture — i used a 50mm/1.4 lens or a 100mm/2.8.

    oh — i should mention that these custom holes, in effect, make the final aperture for the image smaller, necessitating longer exposures than if they weren’t there. setting the camera down on a steady support or tripod helps a lot.

  • Thanks for all the tips, everybody! A fun and creative article. I’m looking forward to giving this a try.

  • chixchazel

    will this work on a 18-55mm kit lens? i’ve tried doing these before but the effect didn’t work. Just wondering if it’s because of my lens or my cutouts. thanks

  • I would also lean towards using a paper puncher just for a neater look. My hand isn’t too steady when it comes to such delicate cutting!

  • Dona

    I love all your tutorials, re-read & practice them. I would love to have more details here. Beginners require shutter speed, ISO settings etc, or was it ur intention for us to practice & find out? Thanks, this article has intrgued me & I will try..

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/morfordsmedia/6482496237/

    This was our first try. We took this photo before this post though, so I am sure that it will get much better.

  • Thanks for everyone’s comments about my tutorial! I’m glad some find it helpful.

    @Dona – I could do more tutorials on basic stuff if that’s what people want. I just have never gotten any requests for a specific subject to cover. Is there something specific you’d like to see?

  • Mรงl

    Hi,
    How fast need the lens to be? I only have F/5.6, is this OK? I tried but I can’t achieve it…
    Thanks

  • Venkatesh

    Wonderful ! ๐Ÿ™‚ love this vid very much

  • Nice useful video, liked the tip on the comments about mouting directly onto the UV filter. Off to give it a try.

  • Thanks for the tip. I tried out some of my own shapes here:

    http://www.icecreemdreem.com/2012/02/28/diy-photo-trick-bokeh-shapes/

    xx
    KK

  • Marry

    Why do i FAIL?! I made the cup, put it on and shot with wide aperture and 85mm, but what i got was that you like see through the shape – all around is black and the bokeh lights are normally round… Please help ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Key

    Whatever google search I do, it always seems to lead me back to DPS!

  • DanielWB

    I’m missing something here, once I have the bokeh filter and I take the shot of the light, then what? In the tutorial you have a cool shot of multiple hearts floating off your hand, how did you do that, is it all post editing, combining the images in photoshop?

  • @marry – sounds like you’ve made the cutout too large, also make sure you’re pulling the focus ring in to it’s closest focusing point and the lights are a decent distance away from you.

    @danielwb – nothing was done in photoshop, that photo is all in-camera. Let me know if you have another question specific to the process.

  • Kelly

    Hi sorry to bother you but i just made one of those bokeh cutouts things for my camera but everytime I take a picture I just get a normal picture with no shapes (:

    any ideas on what I am doing wrong? any ideas are appreciated!

    thanks youuu!! (:

  • Hey ive been experimenting with bokeh effects with this time of the year and this is a really usefull tip, and you said about having the cutout as close to the glass on your lens as possible, well if you/people have the money a lensbaby + creative aperture set and you can cut the shape into the disk and have it risht in the lens and get some really nice shots (i dont own a creative aperture kit but i am thinking of purchasing for my Lensbaby)

  • Mark

    I don’t think you people are bright enough to pull that off safely..?

  • Mark

    I ment that comment for a smoke video that played after this one…

  • I create this bokeh just with my kit lens for the first time, and it was really great experience.

    http://abacreation.blogspot.com/2013/05/bokeh-in-photographybeginners.html

  • Scott

    Can you do this with a Digital Camera? (like canon sx50hs?)

  • Admiring

    I reviewed this video for an assignment on reviewing instructional videos. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think you did a very nice job with this video. I liked that you didn’t use bulleted lists. I like that you showed the supplies and explained each one. I like that you introduced each lesson and the tips section with an intro screen. I liked the “time lapse” part of the assembly instruction. I really like the tips, especially when you explain about how the size of the shape affects the quality of the image.

    I hope you do another video on how to make that image with the hand holding the hearts.

  • Worked like a charm!

  • Oscar Torres G

    Nice but I do it simplier. I just cut the paper in a circular shape the size of the lens, then cut out the shape I want and then put it between the lens and the filter.

  • Gregg Hasenjaeger

    Should you be shooting at an angle to the light or straight on towards the light. If at an angle about how much and in what direction?

  • bskier7

    Used this tutorial this past weekend at the Denver Botanic Gardens with some nice results. I ended up scraping the holder and just held the cutout cards up to my lens. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/18245b9061334d9d5195c26093651c201b32007e1555cde757b6a6010d2eda31.jpg

Some Older Comments

  • Abhishek Anand June 19, 2013 01:57 am

    I create this bokeh just with my kit lens for the first time, and it was really great experience.

    http://abacreation.blogspot.com/2013/05/bokeh-in-photographybeginners.html

  • Mark December 16, 2012 01:48 pm

    I ment that comment for a smoke video that played after this one...

  • Mark December 16, 2012 01:47 pm

    I don't think you people are bright enough to pull that off safely..?

  • Peter December 14, 2012 08:51 pm

    Hey ive been experimenting with bokeh effects with this time of the year and this is a really usefull tip, and you said about having the cutout as close to the glass on your lens as possible, well if you/people have the money a lensbaby + creative aperture set and you can cut the shape into the disk and have it risht in the lens and get some really nice shots (i dont own a creative aperture kit but i am thinking of purchasing for my Lensbaby)

  • Kelly December 14, 2012 02:27 am

    Hi sorry to bother you but i just made one of those bokeh cutouts things for my camera but everytime I take a picture I just get a normal picture with no shapes (:

    any ideas on what I am doing wrong? any ideas are appreciated!

    thanks youuu!! (:

  • Lucas December 12, 2012 02:46 pm

    @marry - sounds like you've made the cutout too large, also make sure you're pulling the focus ring in to it's closest focusing point and the lights are a decent distance away from you.

    @danielwb - nothing was done in photoshop, that photo is all in-camera. Let me know if you have another question specific to the process.

  • DanielWB December 11, 2012 03:05 pm

    I'm missing something here, once I have the bokeh filter and I take the shot of the light, then what? In the tutorial you have a cool shot of multiple hearts floating off your hand, how did you do that, is it all post editing, combining the images in photoshop?

  • Key December 10, 2012 12:33 pm

    Whatever google search I do, it always seems to lead me back to DPS!

  • Marry December 8, 2012 10:36 pm

    Why do i FAIL?! I made the cup, put it on and shot with wide aperture and 85mm, but what i got was that you like see through the shape - all around is black and the bokeh lights are normally round... Please help :)

  • DoubleK. February 29, 2012 07:20 am

    Thanks for the tip. I tried out some of my own shapes here:

    http://www.icecreemdreem.com/2012/02/28/diy-photo-trick-bokeh-shapes/

    xx
    KK

  • White Petal Wedding Photography Devon December 30, 2011 03:25 am

    Nice useful video, liked the tip on the comments about mouting directly onto the UV filter. Off to give it a try.

  • Venkatesh December 16, 2011 02:58 am

    Wonderful ! :) love this vid very much

  • Mรงl December 15, 2011 09:40 am

    Hi,
    How fast need the lens to be? I only have F/5.6, is this OK? I tried but I can't achieve it...
    Thanks

  • Lucas Ridley December 15, 2011 08:09 am

    Thanks for everyone's comments about my tutorial! I'm glad some find it helpful.

    @Dona - I could do more tutorials on basic stuff if that's what people want. I just have never gotten any requests for a specific subject to cover. Is there something specific you'd like to see?

  • Jason December 14, 2011 02:48 pm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/morfordsmedia/6482496237/

    This was our first try. We took this photo before this post though, so I am sure that it will get much better.

  • Dona December 14, 2011 02:10 am

    I love all your tutorials, re-read & practice them. I would love to have more details here. Beginners require shutter speed, ISO settings etc, or was it ur intention for us to practice & find out? Thanks, this article has intrgued me & I will try..

  • Paper Puncher November 6, 2010 03:15 am

    I would also lean towards using a paper puncher just for a neater look. My hand isn't too steady when it comes to such delicate cutting!

  • chixchazel September 18, 2010 03:42 am

    will this work on a 18-55mm kit lens? i've tried doing these before but the effect didn't work. Just wondering if it's because of my lens or my cutouts. thanks

  • Peggy Collins September 18, 2010 01:00 am

    Thanks for all the tips, everybody! A fun and creative article. I'm looking forward to giving this a try.

  • toomanytribbles September 9, 2010 06:51 am

    @hans maerker the cokin kit looks very useful with all those filters, but just for the custom bokeh it seemed a bit too much for me -- i prefer a little black construction paper and my trusty knife or paper puncher.

    @martin soler -- i tried taping a bit of paper, like you recommended, to get the paper out of the UV filter, but eventually found it much easier to just fold the circle towards the edge and crease it, in order to always have that bit sticking out of the filter. the crease didn't show up on the image at all.

    the size for the hole can be larger if your lens features a large aperture -- i used a 50mm/1.4 lens or a 100mm/2.8.

    oh -- i should mention that these custom holes, in effect, make the final aperture for the image smaller, necessitating longer exposures than if they weren't there. setting the camera down on a steady support or tripod helps a lot.

  • kirpi September 8, 2010 12:39 pm

    Playing with light is much fun :-)

  • Martin Soler September 8, 2010 07:44 am

    On a rainy weekend in Paris, I had some fun doing just that. I did one called Bokeh Love.
    http://martinsoler.com/2010/06/03/bokeh-love-hearts-candles/
    I found out that the cutout in the cardboard needs to be quite small to get the effect. A too large cut out doesn't work.
    The biggest "pain" was getting the cardboard piece to fit properly. Note: I put it in my UV filter, in order to get it out easily again, tape on a little tag that you can use to pull it out.

  • Hans Maerker September 7, 2010 02:54 am

    Hi Everybody,

    I read toomanytribbles's comment about DYI shapes on DPS and actually sent her a short message with a few special links that might help her as well.

    As an afterthought, I think.... heck, why not sharing this with everybody here. Maybe there are a few people who haven't heard about it yet. So...here is my share about a system that is already on the market for at least 30 years. The system is called COKIN and the originally idea (so many years ago) was to have only 1 (one) flexible creative filter system that could fit on all lens diameters with adapter rings.

    The system itself is at: http://www.cokin.com/ico1-p1.html
    The DIY special filters used in this holder) are at: http://www.cokin.com/ico3-p1-8.html

    If you don't know already about COKIN, then their website is definitely worth a visit.
    No... I AM NOT promoting here something on behalf of Cokin. I'm just a loyal user who appreciated the creative filters in an analog age when digital filters like the ones from Nik were not on the market yet.

    Hans Maerker

  • Garry September 6, 2010 05:46 pm

    You certainly can get some nice effects. I did the same as toomanytribbles cutting some black card into a circle and fitting it into a UV filter which was attached to my 50mm lens. I used one of my wifes craft paper punches to punch some designs into the paper. For my first attempt I hung up some christmas lights and this is what I got. http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryandhelena/2974379732/

  • lonelyhome.ru September 6, 2010 05:10 pm

    If you already use Cokin/Lee filters, everything is much simplier -- you just need 89x89mm (for Cokin P) piece of black paper, cut desired bokeh shape as shown in video and insert it into filter holder.

  • Lucas Ridley September 6, 2010 12:07 pm

    Wow! Thanks for posting my video! And thanks to everyone for watching!

  • toomanytribbles September 6, 2010 06:27 am

    @dok thanks!

  • dok September 6, 2010 05:41 am

    Very interesting video, had no idea about that.
    And btw, toomanytribbles : great photographs!

  • toomanytribbles September 6, 2010 04:22 am

    i love custom bokeh shapes!

    i have a protective UV filter on all my lenses, so all i did was cut out the circles to fit snugly within the sides of the filter, and did away with the supportive ring around the lens.

    it's fun doing all shorts of shapes, but for some reason, my favorite is the simple square.

    here's a set of some of my attempts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/toomanytribbles/sets/72157617857357730/

  • Matt Becker September 6, 2010 03:14 am

    I saw a page on shaped bokeh in the DPS forums and decided I would make my own kit. My aunt owns a scrap booking shop, so I stopped there and got some quality paper and used her CNC paper cutter and punches to make my set. I used a 2" punch to create the circles and a 62mm step-up ring to mount them to my lens. You can see some of the cutouts below:

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbecker813/4960277459/' title='Shaped Bokeh Kit' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4112/4960277459_b4df92bbda.jpg']

  • simon bunting September 6, 2010 01:56 am

    Wow great video I always wondered how people did this. I bookmarked this for a a rainy day :)

    Thanks for sharing

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