Photography Trick ~ Put Some Custom in Your Bokeh

Light and the way it’s captured with a camera, for the photographer, can range from frustrating to fun. We’re going to talk about something fun you can do to shape light as it enters the camera.

When we shoot a shallow depth-of-field image that has high contrast in the background, especially bright specular highlights, those textures are not rendered as sharp objects in the camera. Instead the unsharp highlights turn to round overlapping orbs because of the roundness of the overlapping diaphragm blades in our lens, and this is called Bokeh. Depending on the aperture setting and type of lens, occasionally the corners or overlaps of these blades is visible in the photo’s Bokeh.

So, if the lens diaphragm blades are round and create a round orb, it only makes sense that we can change the shape of the bokeh in your photos. Kinda like, a Wocket in your Pocket…sorry, one of those bed time reading rhymes that will never leave.

iPad Users View Video Here

Here are the steps to make your very own custom shaped Bokeh.

1. Measure the inside edge of the front of the lens. Prime lenses with wide aperture (i.e. f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2) will work best to make bokeh

2. Set a compass to one half the width measured from the lens

3. Make several circles on dark colored construction paper and cut them out

4. Use a small piece of tape looped over the edge to help remove the shape later. Then cut out custom shapes on the circle.

The key to remember here is ‘FUN’. Make several different circles with different shaped cut outs. Some shapes will work better than others, so experiment.

Once you place the circle over the lens of your camera, you will be blocking a percentage of available light from entering the camera. This will require longer, slower shutter speeds, and because of this you will most likely want to shoot on a tripod.

To create the best bokeh, position your focused subject closer to the camera with a bright highlighted background that is further away. The background might be Christmas lights, specs of sunlight shining through tree leaves, or other similar scenes.

With the scene established either set your camera in full manual (M) or aperture (A or AV) and dial in a wide open aperture setting (i.e. f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2), the lowest your lens will allow.

Let me know if you’ve tried this or will now. Please leave a comment below and better yet, include a link to your custom bokeh creation.

Also, a special thanks goes out to the High Calling Focus gang for featuring this photo trick on their site as well. Thank you so much HCF; Jenny, Kelly, and Claire! πŸ™‚