How to Do Shaped Bokeh Photography in 5 Easy Steps

It’s amazing what you can do with a camera. Light can be captured in different ways, and this opens up many possibilities for the keen photographer. Creating your own shaped bokeh is a fun and exciting way of shaping light as it enters the camera, and it leads to spectacular results.

Bokeh refers to the out-of-focus or blurry regions in a photo that occur outside the depth of field. This is especially evident when you have small background highlights that create high contrast.

custom bokeh tips

Photo by ruben alexander; ISO 200, f/1.8, 1.6-second exposure.

Taking this concept, you can change the shape of your bokeh by manipulating the lens. You can easily master this cool camera trick by following these five steps:

how to make custom bokeh

Photo by Smallest Forest; ISO 64, f/3.1, 1/420-second exposure.

how to make bokeh shapes

Photo by Francesca Cappa; ISO 800, f/1.8, 1/20-second exposure.

  1. You’ll need dark colored construction paper, preferably black. Cut a strip of paper with a length that will fit around the lens of your DSLR camera. It’s best to use a lens with a wide aperture to create bokeh. Wrap the strip of paper around the outside of your lens, forming a cylinder, and hold it together with tape.
  2. Next, you need a circle-shaped piece of the black paper to form the cap on the paper tube, which will fit over your lens. To do this, you can measure the lens of your camera and draw the circle on the paper with a compass set to half the lens width. Or, you can get the paper tube you made, place it on the paper, and trace around it to get your circle.
  3. Cut out the circle and use a paper punch to make a custom shape in the middle of the circle. If you don’t have a custom paper punch, you can use an X-Acto knife to cut out the shape you want. The shape should be between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch. It can be anything–a heart, cloud, star, you name it. Make as many circles as you want with different cut out shapes. Some will work better than others, so you’ll need to experiment.
  4. Prepare to place the paper tube and circle over the lens. Putting a strip of tape along one edge of the tube will make it easier for you to remove and change the shape cutouts. You should tape the circle to the tube so that it forms a cap that will fit nicely over your lens.
  5. You are ready to shoot! If you want to make the best bokeh, make sure the focused subject is positioned close to the camera. Bright background highlights should be at a distance. The background can be any tiny points of light, such as sunlight between leaves or Christmas lights. Set your camera to full manual or aperture priority mode, and make sure your aperture is as wide as possible.
change bokeh shapes

Photo by Hannah Morse; ISO 800, f/2.8, 1-30-second exposure.

With your own custom shaped bokeh, you can make awesome and creative images. This useful and simple photo trick is just about manipulating the aesthetic blur to create something magical in your photos.

About the Author:
Swee Shiong Chong writes for sgeastphoto, a photography blog on techniques and equipment that is used in creating all types of photography from around the world.

This is a how-to video on creating customized shapes out of your out-of-focus highlights, also known as bokeh.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current: