Custom Bokeh – Intermediate Tutorial

The subject of this month’s tutorial is Bokeh. Bokeh is of course simply background blur, or rather the quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas. Small bright areas show up as shapes, which used wisely, creates fantastic effects on the photos. In this tutorial I will show you how you can actually change the shape of your bokeh by creating your own bokeh filter using basic household items you probably have in the room with you right now!

Without a filter, the shape of your bokeh is determined by two things; your aperture, and how many blades the diaphragm in your lens has. This varies from lens to lens, specifically how many blades your lens’ diaphragm has. At wide apertures the bokeh will be circular, and at narrower apertures simple polygonal shapes.

To change this, all we have to do is make a cover of some description that can fit over the opening of the lens, forcing the lens to make it’s exposure through the shape of our choice:

daniel geesen custom bokeh
Equipment needed: A camera A piece of card or very thick, dark card stock A pen, pencil, or marker A razor knife or other such cutting apparatus
diy bokeh filter
Step 1: Trace a circle around your lens.
homemade bokeh filter
Step 2: Draw and cut out your desired shape!
create your own bokeh filter
Step 3: Tape the filter onto your lens!


With the heart-shaped bokeh filter created in this tutorial.


Without the bokeh filter.

There you have it, quick, simple, and easy! I’m not saying this will improve your photos, and I’m certainly not suggesting these custom bokeh shapes are a superior bokeh. In fact, out of the two example photos above I actually prefer the one without the filter I made for this tutorial. The reason for that being that the aperture of the heart filter was small enough to effectively narrow my depth-of-field, bringing the background into more focus than I liked.

What I do hope came across to anyone who hasn’t tried this technique, is that you can use this method to add another dimension of creativity into your photography, that there are endless possibilities for where, when, how and why you might apply your own custom shapes to this process, and at the very least there is some craic to be had!

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