Shaped Bokeh

Okay… it’s been a while, and things around here have been hectic. There’s been a revamp in design, I’m coming to the end of the 365, and my personal life feels like a whirlwind (if you wanna know why check out my ‘contact‘ page).

BUT – we’re back (YAY!) and I thought I’d kick things off with a little project I’ve been working on.

A while ago I came across this post on DIY Photography, and it started me thinking… If all you need is a piece of paper over your lens with a small enough aperture, shaped bokeh is actually really easy. But what if you want to be able to do this on the fly, during a shoot, or on command?? How could you have a ‘ready-made’ shaped bokeh kit?

Well, one option is to buy the Bokeh Masters Kit. Easy enough. But there is another option. And if I (Mr. Two-Thumbs when it comes to crafty stuff) can do it, anyone can!

Here’s What you’ll need:

Basically, we need a UV filter to fit your lens (most photographers I know have at least one of these lying around), some black card, a ruler, scissors or craft knife and a pencil. Also, somewhere safe to cut the paper would be a bonus (unless you don’t like your furniture!)

First thing you need to do is break down your filter. I was using an old Hoya filter, and the centre-ring was pretty easy to remove from the threads and free the glass! Depending on the size of your sheet of card you’ll also need to cut it down into something more manageable!

Then¬† you need to draw around your glass to give you ‘filter templates’. You need to cover the glass with this card, so going this is the best way. You can do one, twenty, or a hundred, it really is up to you – I was simply adding redundancies in this example! ha!

Your next stage is to cut out your template(s). Once you’ve got a nice collection of little circle cards, you then need to find the dead centre. You need to do this so your camera’s sensor can still ‘see’ through your shaped filter. I found the easiest way to do this was simply to take my paper circle and fold it in half, then in half again, creating a small triangle. When you open it up, you have two lines cutting through the middle of your filter, where they meet is the dead centre!

Once you have the centre (in the above shot you can see the lines I marked out to help illustrate this) you need to find your ‘drawing zone’. Basically, for your shots to get shaped bokeh, your ‘new’ aperture (the hole/shape you’re going to cut in this paper) needs to be the right size. On the DIY photogrpahy link above the numbers are explained easily – With a 50mm lens at f/2, your ‘new’ aperture needs to be a maximum size of 25mm (50 divided by 2). So, in my example, my 35mm lens will crank open to f/1.8 – that works out at around 19mm. In the above image I’m basically marking out a 19mm space around the centre of my filter.

Once you’ve marked out your ‘safe zone’ for drawing your shape – you simply draw whatever shape you want your bokeh to take, then cut it out! EASY! ha! Some shapes work better than others, obviously… I’ve found it’s best to stick with the wise words of my Dad – Keep it Simple Stupid! (NB: In the above image you can see the ‘drawing zone’ I marked out for myself on two of the filters.)

So then, all that’s left to do is re-assemble your filter, with the new addition of your shape cut-out. I’ve found the best system is to replace the glass, then add the cut-out, then screw your place holder in – this allows you to re-position your cut-out when you screw the filter back onto your lens.

One final note – If you cut letters, or (like the above example) a shape that orients correctly in only one direction, you need to reverse it on your filter (flip horizontally) so that your camera sees it the right way around, and it appears that way in your shots!!

Now, if you’ve followed these directions correctly, you should be able to enjoy shots like the ones below… Enjoy, have fun, and if you have any ideas for improving or making this design, or you use this idea to take shots – feel free to share them in the comments!!

j :)


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