I’ve always loved bokeh.
Even before I knew what bokeh was.
There is a photograph of me when I was a kid. I am in sharp focus and the background is blurred. I always thought it was a “good picture,” but never knew why. There was something about it that made me take a second look. It was the only photo like that in our family albums.
It wasn’t until decades later, that I found out what bokeh is.
Bokeh is the word for that blur you get in photos. According to photography.com, the word bokeh, derived from the Japanese word “boke” translates to ‘fuzziness’ or blur.
Bokeh is usually in the background, but you could also blur the foreground if you want to call attention to something behind it. It’s one of my favorite technique that I use over and over again. I use it when taking portraits of my daughters. I use it when taking photos of my items for my Etsy shop.
|In the shot on the left, my focus is on the button on this felt flower. This focuses your eye on this one detail. The shot on the right focuses on the entire wreath with my daughter out of focus (but still recognizable) in the background.|
Most recently, I discovered another fun way to use bokeh. The shaped bokeh! There are some great tutorials out there on how to create your own shaped bokeh, namely here and here and here. This tutorial will share my experiences and how you can turn your “ordinary” bokeh photos like this:
into shots like this:
by making a simple lens hood like this:
|The lens hood is not so pretty, but your photos will be!|
How-to make the lens hood:
1. Before you make your lens hood, you will need to decide which lens you will be using. Choose your largest aperture lens. I used a Canon 50 mm F/1.4 lens for my Canon dSLR.
2. To create the lens hood, use your lens cap as a rough guide. Place your lens cap on the black paper and cut around the cap, adding about 1/2 – 3/4 inch to the diameter. You want the hood to fit snugly around your lens, but not too small that it won’t fit at all. My hood was about 3 inches in diameter.
3. Now it’s time to make the heart.
The size of the heart does matter. For my 50 mm 1.4 lens, a 3/4 inch heart worked great. For more tips on how big to make your heart, you might want to check out this.
The placement of the heart also matters. You want the heart in the center of the hood. One way to do this is to fold the circle in half and cut out half a heart. By folding the circle first, not only will you get a symmetrical heart, but the fold in the paper will tell you where the center of the circle is.
4. Next, cut a strip of black paper long enough to wrap around the diameter of your circle with some overlap. The strip should be about 1 1/2 – 2 inches wide.
5. Tape the strip to the circle, making sure all the gaps are closed. Double-check to see if your hood fits on your lens. It should fit snugly enough so that it doesn’t fall off. If it’s too loose, try using a rubber band to keep it on your lens.
Setting up the shot:
-Subject – it might be easier to practice on an inanimate object (or a very patient person) when you’re starting out. For the ones of my daughter, she was seated on a comfy chair and watching tv. She wasn’t going anywhere!
-Lights – This is what will turn into the hearts. I used my Christmas tree which had several colors of lights on it. You can also use outdoor lights, street lights etc. The more lights you have, the more hearts in your final photo.
-Camera with your large aperture lens attached
-Lens hood that you made
Taking the shot:
1. Place your subject far away from the lights. On my first go, I made the mistake of putting my subject right next to the Christmas tree. Did not work.
2. Set your aperture to its lowest setting (so its wide open).
3. Focus on your subject.
4. Switch to manual focus mode and place your lens hood on the lens. (You should not see the hood or the heart shape in your viewfinder. See my outtake photo below.) Take the shot!
|My first successful shot!|
If you just want the heart lights alone, remove your subject and shoot (without refocusing). You should get something like this.
Experiment with where you place your hearts in the photo. In the photo of my daughter lying down (4th photo from the top of the post), it looks like the hearts are floating above her. In this photo, the hearts are more of a background element (And you can also tell that it’s the Christmas tree in the background.)
You can also experiment with the shape that the lights are making. In my example, the shape is a Christmas tree. But you could hang your lights in any shape you want, like a heart or a circle. (Maybe I’ll try that next!)
If you’re like me, it might take you a few tries (see below for some of my outtakes) to get the hang of it, but once I got that first heart-shaped bokeh, it was magical!
I thought I would share some photos from my first attempts. It will help you see what not to do.
|Learning from my mistakes.|
1. My first attempt. I was using my 17-50 mm F/2.8 lens so my heart was way too big for my aperture. It gave a heart-shaped vignette instead of a heart-shaped bokeh! My subject was also way too close to the lights. Not enough blur.
2. On my second attempt, I used a much smaller heart and the same lens. The heart ended up being too small. Not the magic I was looking for. 3. In the end, I went back to the hood with the larger heart (as pictured) but changed my lens to my F/1.4 and moved my subject farther away from the lights. Success!
Now I can’t stop!
Here’s one more shot before I go. And it happens to be one my new felt hoop art that I’ll be putting in the Catshy Crafts shop very soon! I think the heart bokeh goes well with this particular hoop 😉
So…..Thanks for reading my very first tutorial on the Catshy Crafts blog! I hope this tutorial will help you make your own magical photos. (And if you do, I’d love to see them. Please link me up in the comments.)