Thursday, December 9, 2010

Photography Tutorial - Heart Shaped Bokeh

Have you ever seen those cool photos where the blurred lights in the background were actually shaped like hearts? kinda like this:

I'm not the greatest photographer, but I'm interested in experimental & diy projects since getting my canon DSLR. I was recently at a party with friends and I was surprised at how many of them wanted to know HOW the bokeh really worked... well, I'm friends with a LOT of engineers, but still. There are lots of tutorials out there, so I just wanted to throw together one of my own to show you how easy it can be :)

I'll try to explain what "bokeh" is & how it works for my fellow nerds. Disclaimer: I'm not that snazzy at photography terms so I hope no pros come here & yell at me for being a dummy. But if you don't care about the science of it all, skip this section & go to the photos below to read about the quick & dirty way to DIY a cover for your lens.
BOKEH is defined as the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light." Bokeh is often most visible around small background highlights, such as specular reflections and light sources, which is why it is often associated with such areas. However, bokeh is not limited to highlights, as blur occurs in all out-of-focus regions of the image. on wikipedia

As I take it, regular bokeh is created by the aperture arms or 'blades' that swing open & shut when your shutter releases. For lenses with more rounded or a greater number of blades, the regular bokeh created by lights in the background will be round, whereas, for lenses with fewer or straighter blades, you many get polygonal shapes. Yeah, read about it more on wiki.

Anyways, since we are making a new aperture for your lens, it has to be smaller than the one in your lens already. That's why this works best with larger aperture lenses & in this case, I am using the Canon 50mm F1.8 lens (aka the nifty fifty!). According to another online tutorial, "In a prime lens of 50mm with an aperture setting of f/2 the aperture will be 25mm, so your cutout shape must be less than 25mm in diameter to get the effect." For more sizes of cutouts for lenses, check out the tutorial. My explanation is getting a bit lazy, but hopefully you get the gist of it!


Using a few small pieces of cardstock, create a small cylindrical "cover" for your lens. make sure it fits your lens snugly! (pretty sure I don't have to explain how to make a cylinder from paper & tape haha)

I chose to make a small rectangle opening at the side so that I could have access to the switch for Manual/Auto focus.

Your basic cover just needs a cut-out of a heart (or whatever shape you choose) but I also decided to make slots at the front so that the shape would be interchangeable. "In a prime lens of 50mm with an aperture setting of f/2 the aperture will be 25mm, so your cutout shape must be less than 25mm in diameter to get the effect." For cut out sizes for different lenses, check out this tutorial

I have small paper punches, so i just made a few interchangeable discs with those.
(clearly the very '90s foot shape is very useful. LOL)

now just slip it on your camera, set your aperture to the lowest possible aperture value & pick your shape & start shooting!
(obviously, attach your lens to your camera too. haha)

Below are samples taken with my bokeh effect covers:

regular bokeh (canon 50mm F1.8 lens)

the hearts

the snowflakes

Sorry guys, no sexy foot bokeh. ahahah.

I've been having to fiddle a lot with the settings to get the effects that I want, but it's been fun & Christmas lights seem to be the best opportunity to test it all out. Hopefully I'll have more photos to share soon :) Try it out & show me how your experiments turn out!!


ps, While we're on the topic of photography, I just wanted to show off my new camera bag! Ever since I got my camera, I've had trouble with carrying it around-- I usually carry a small purse & carrying a separate totebag and slinging it around wasn't very safe. I wanted to invest in an actual camera bag but most are super manly or super... velcro-y. ew. Also, a friend of mine brought up the fact that she hates thinking that strangers can just see her carrying around a $1000+ piece of equipment so obviously, which is so true.
I asked my boyfriend to buy me a camera purse on ebay & it turns out that it's an awesome combo of style & functionality!

It looks pretty decent, like a standard leather purse on the outside, while the inside has a padded liner & a padded divider that can be moved anywhere, so you can choose the size of your compartments to suit your equipment. I'm able to fit my DSLR with the lens attached on one side & the other can fit my extra lens, extra flash and i can still throw in my wallet & keep my keys & lipgloss in the extra front pocket! woohoo! go check out the purses on ebay! Thanks to my bf for this awesomely useful bag ♥


  1. Sadly I really was looking forward to the foot bokeh hahaha, was it because it turned out badly?....i love the hearts and snowflakes they are so nice!

  2. I am so jealous of your camera bag!! Putting on my eBay camping gear and waiting stealthily for the next one... *shifts eyes*

  3. @veruca, bahahhaha! I didn't even bother with the picture cause I thought it would turn out strangely. I'll throw one up onto the blog someday though, just for you ;)

    @justine, all the buy-it-nows on ebay are about $20+$20 shipping, so anything less than that should be an awesome deal! good luck bidding, xo

  4. I am so jealous of your camera bag!! Putting on my eBay camping gear and waiting stealthily for the next one... *shifts eyes*

  5. To create such a truly amazing article, I read your blog every day and give me for that announcement here this article is too great and very entertaining thanks.



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