Creative DIY

How to Create a DIY Filter for Custom Bokeh Shapes

Nancy Messieh 21-03-2017

You probably see bokeh all the time in photos. It’s basically the blur you’ll get when shooting with a shallow depth of field. The photo below by Chrissie is a classic example of the bokeh effect:


How to Create a DIY Filter for Custom Bokeh Shapes Bokeh 670x444

If you want to get this effect, you’ll need to use a lens with a wide aperture. If you’re just getting started, a good place to begin is with a prime 50mm lens f/1.8 Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses: What's the Difference? After graduating from a kit lens, you’ll need to decide between a prime lens and a zoom lens. But what exactly is the difference? Which one is better for you? Read More . The wider the aperture (in other words the lower the number), the more prominent the effect will be.

You might have also seen bokeh photos with custom shapes, like this image by Abby Bischoff where the bokeh appears in the shape of hearts:

How to Create a DIY Filter for Custom Bokeh Shapes Bokeh Hearts 670x447

If you want to get this custom bokeh effect, you can do this by creating a custom filter using just construction paper.


What You’ll Need

  • Black construction paper or lightweight black cardstock
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife
  • Cutting mat

How to Make a Custom Bokeh Filter

  1. Using a piece of black construction paper, cut out a strip of paper that will serve as your lens sleeve. The easiest way to get the measurements right is to measure it around your lens. Place your lens on its side on the construction paper, and cut a strip that will cover the entire lens. (If you’re using the 50mm, you’ll find around 8.6 inches by around 2 inches fits.)
  2. Wrap the strip of construction paper around your lens, and tape it together.
  3. Cut out a circle that will be taped to the front of the lens sleeve. You can use the lens sleeve as a guide to get the size of the lens cover right.
  4. Cut a rectangle out of the lens cover. That rectangle should be larger than the shapes you will be using for your bokeh effect.
  5. Cut squares out of your construction paper and draw small shapes on them — hearts, stars, trees, diamonds — whatever shape comes to mind. Make sure the shapes are smaller than the rectangle in your lens cover. Cut the shapes out using an X-Acto blade. If you have small shape punches you can use those instead.

Take the Photos

  1. If you can, shoot either in manual or aperture priority mode, and make sure the aperture is at its widest.
  2. Hold the shape over the lens cover or tape it to the lens cover with some low tack tape.
  3. Direct your camera at lights: string lights, a Christmas tree, anything with a lot of small lights. The small lights will be transformed into the shape you’ve cut out.

To see the process in action, check out the video below:

Do you have any good DIY tips or tricks for taking your photography to the next level? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Victor Courville
    July 2, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Great article and I will be watching for more. Thanks for some awesome information.