Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Shaped Bokeh For Dummies

I am a photography dummy. We bought a relatively cheap DSLR camera 2 years ago and I've mostly left it set on auto or aperture priority. I've read through Pioneer Woman's basic tutorials a few times, but when it comes time to catch some good candid shots of the kids, none of the information seems to have really stuck.

But when I first saw a picture with shaped bokeh in the background, I knew I had to figure out how to do it. I tried and tried to follow what the tutorial was saying, but it didn't really click. A few days ago, I found more information and finally managed to put it all together and produce this

I was SOOO excited. And I thought some of you would appreciate step by step directions and visuals on how to do it.

First up, you need a shape cut out of black paper or plastic to hold in front of your lens. You can buy kits with shapes already done for you, or make your own. Ideally, it should be something that fits over your lens, but since I was just playing around, I just used construction paper and held it up.

But once you've picked a shape, you need to know what size to make it and this is one part I didn't understand at first. On your lens, there's a number followed by "mm". If your lens has a range, then as you zoom in or out, there is a mark pointing to a certain "mm" number. If you set your camera in aperture priority mode, there is also an "f___" number you can set. If I use a 50mm lens and set the camera to f2.5, my shape has to be 20mm (50/2.5) or less. Depending on your lens, you may need a pretty small shape.

Next, you want to set up a shot with lights in the background. I also didn't understand this. All those pretty fuzzy shapes don't just show up, there will be one "cut out" for each light. A lighted Christmas tree lends itself well to this, but some people also set up backgrounds with small lights.

I only have the one camera, so I just put one of my lenses where my camera would be to show you how everything was laid out. You're going to be far enough away from the lights that they will be fuzzy in the background and then if you want another object that's the focal point, it will be much closer to the lens

When you look through the camera, you want to adjust the focus until the lights look like this
Or with an object in front, it looks like this (perhaps with better lighting on the object, but you get the point) If you keep looking through the camera and move your shape cut out in front of the lens
What you will see through the camera and what will show up when you take the shot, is this: Because I was holding the paper and didn't have it completely flat, I got that fish-eye effect, but still, you can understand the idea.

Once you understand how to set it up, it's so easy to do even a photography dummy like me can make all sorts of neat pictures! I also had great fun taking off my glasses and holding cut out shapes in front of my eyes and looking around. I have extremely bad eyesight (worse than 20/1000), so I easily get the exact same effect you see in the pictures.

Have fun before you take the Christmas tree down!


Anonymous said...


thanks for sharing. if I have a little shape, how is it possible to get a bigger picture? the picture seems only to work a little larger than the shape is???

thanks for replying...


The Hills said...

You just have to move farther away from what you're taking a picture of

Anonymous said...


thanks, I m going to try this tomorrow night...hope it works...



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