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How to create shaped bokeh with image of heart shaped tree lights

It is really fun to get creative with your photography and shooting the holiday lights gives you the perfect opportunity to create shaped bokeh.  This will be a quick tutorial on how to easily create a filter that can be used to create shaped bokeh.  Watch the video below to be walked step-by-step through the filter creating process and a demo of shooting with the filter.

How to Create Shaped Bokeh 

  1.  Using black card stock, place your prime lens glass side down and trace a circle around the lens.
  2. Draw free hand another larger circle around the circle created and cut out this larger circle.
  3. Fold the circle in half and draw the shape you want in the center of the inner circle.  The shape shouldn’t be too small or too large.
  4. Cut out the shape in the center.

How to Use the Shaped Bokeh Filter to Photograph a Subject in Front of Lights

  1.  Use a prime lens that has a focal length of 35mm or above.
  2. Set your aperture below f2.8
  3. Place the subject in front of the lights with a good amount of distance in between.  
  4. Hold the filter up to your lens, focus on the subject and take the photo.
How to create shaped bokeh with image of whiskey bottles in front of heart shaped bokeh

How to Use the Shaped Bokeh Filter to Photograph Just  Lights

  1.  Use a prime lens that has a focal length of 35mm or above.
  2. Set your aperture below f2.8
  3. Change your lens to manual focus or MF
  4. Hold the filter up to your lens
  5. Use the focus ring on the lens to blur the lights until you get the lights in the shape of your filter
Creating heart shaped bokeh with an image of carousel light in the shape of hears

Troubleshooting Creating Shaped Bokeh

  • This filter technique will not work well at shorter lens focal lengths.  Make sure to use a lens such as 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm.
  • You must use a prime lens that allows you to set the aperture below f2.8
  • If you are getting funky shapes or no shapes at all you may need to make the shape in your filter smaller or larger.
  • Try rotating the filter in front of the lens if the shapes are upside down.
  • Put more distance between your subject and the lights.
  • Put more distance between your lens and the lights.

As you can see in the video above, creating shaped bokeh is super easy and a fun creative photography technique to get you out of a rut. You can use this all year round to photograph lights not just during the holidays. If you have any questions about creating the filters, just pop into my Facebook page and ask away!

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