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  1. Photo & Video
  2. Bokeh
Photography

Creating Fun and Festive Bokeh

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

‘Tis the season and with all of those holiday lights around, who can resist a little bit of festive bokeh? In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create something a little bit different to get a new twist from those tree lights!

What You’ll Need

what youll need
What you'll need for this tutorial
  • Tape
  • A pencil
  • A sharp craft knife
  • Scissors
  • Thin black card
  • A low-light lens (a lens with a large maximum aperture)
  • A surface to cut on (I recommend a chopping board)

1. Make a Lens Hood

The first thing you need to do is cut part of your card into a strip wide enough to fit around your lens:

cut card into a strip
Cut the card into a strip

You'll have something like this:

strip of card
Strip of card for around your lens

2. Make Your Template

Next, draw around your lens with the outer glass (where the lens cap is) face down:

Draw around lens
Draw around your lens

You don’t need to be neat about this part. Once you have your circle, draw another circle about an inch out like this:

two rough circles
You should have two rough circles

Cut out the larger circle then cut out little triangles from the outside, to your inner circle without cutting into the inner circle like so:

cut triangles into outer circle
Cut triangle shapes into the outer circle

Do five or six of these until you can bend the outer parts like this:

Bend the outer circle in
Fold the outer circle in

 We’re going to use this to bend around the strip we made before.

3. Cut Out Your Custom Shape

Draw your custom shape in the middle of your circle. Keep it quite small, a large one won’t work very well. For ease of demonstration I’ve chosen a small Christmas tree. You do need to be quite neat about this part as it’ll show up on your bokeh if you have any rough edges. Once you’ve drawn your shape, cut around it carefully with the craft knife. Remember to use your cutting surface, I don’t want the blame for any holes in carpets!

custom bokeh shape
Cut out your custom bokeh shape in the middle of the circle

4. Make Your Attachment

Take the strip of card you cut out earlier and wrap it around your lens:

wrap the strip of card around lens
Wrap your strip of card around your lens

Tape it to itself to form a snug fitting (but easily removable) tube. Next, take your custom bokeh card and tape it to your tube, covering any gaps with tape.

Tape to lens
Tape it to the lens, covering any gaps

You should now have something that fits to your lens but comes off easily to look like this:

finished attachment
Your finished attachment should look something like this (or neater!)

The size of your ‘tube’ does matter, so you may want to trim it down after you’ve tried it out.

Results

The technical stuff

It’s not easy to get great results in Auto as you’ll confuse your light meter massively so you may need to flip to Manual mode, or at the very least Aperture mode. Choose your lowest aperture, a fast(ish) shutter speed and remember to manual focus.

Examples

This is a fun method of creating some really abstract bokeh shots. Here’s what my Christmas tree looked like with the custom filter attached:

christmas tree bokeh
Christmas tree bokeh using tree lights - you can really see the shape of the tree here
christmas tree bokeh
Another example with a splash of red this time

This works with any points of light so try it with candles or get some battery powered fairy lights for custom bokeh on the move!

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