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Friday, December 23, 2011

How to Make Shaped Bokeh

Bokeh is defined as “the aesthetic quality of the blur.” Basically, it is the out of focus part of a photo – and commonly refers to how the light sources in an image look.

One of the best times of the year to practice creating bokeh is Christmas because of the abundance of Christmas lights everywhere!

A few nights ago while watching one of the Hallmark Christmas movies, I decided to play around a little bit with making custom bokeh shapes. Super simple and easy.

All you do is take a piece of dark construction paper and cut a shape in it. Then, hold it over your lens, point your lens at your Christmas tree, or someplace so that there are lights in the background of the photo, and take a picture! Viola!

Some tips:

-Turn your camera into manual focus mode if you can. This lets you choose where to focus. If you can't turn your auto focus off, you can use this trick I read somewhere online. Focus on an object maybe 4 feet in front of you and keep your finger halfway pressed down. Then, recompose so your lights are in the background of the photo and take the photo by pressing the shutter button the rest of the way down. This will prevent your camera from trying to focus on your actual Christmas tree. If you actually focus on your tree, you won't get any bokeh in the lights. You have to make the lights be OUT of focus in order for the shapes to show up!

Another option is to have someone sit between you and the tree, and then focus on them, leaving the tree/lights blurry and out of focus in the background. Because we don't have any kids or pets, and Matt was not home at the time, I didn't have anyone to be my subject. So all of the images below are just of out of focus lights, showing the Christmas bokeh.

LKR_2451 LKR_2458 LKR_2460 LKR_2463
-If you are able to put your camera in manual focus mode, play around with the focus. Twist your lens focus all the way to the right. Take a photo. Turn it a little to the left. Snap a photo. A little more, snap a photo. A little more, snap another. Turn it all the way to the left, and snap one. Each different spot on the focus gradient will display different looking bokeh in the Christmas tree lights!LKR_2488 LKR_2489 LKR_2490 LKR_2491 LKR_2492 LKR_2496
*If you aren't familiar with the terms bokeh or aren't a photog buff, this post might look like Greek to you. For that, I apologize. Tune in next time for something more relevant and interesting. :)


  1. Thank you, Mary! I'd love to see your photos if you experiment with this!

  2. So going to try this tomorrow! Poor Nora will be my victim/focus object!-anna


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