Snowman Bokeh Before and After

In photography, Bokeh is a Japanese word – the transliteration of a Japanese word for “blur” – describing the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of an image projected by a camera lens. — In other words, it’s the out-of-focus points of light in the background of my image.


Every camera and lens capture different types of bokeh. Many older lenses have straight blades in their diaphragms, which result in hextagon-shaped bokeh, and newer lenses typically render round bokeh. I’m a big fan of bokeh. Bokeh makes your subject stand out from your background, forcing us to focus our attention on a particular area of the image.

I wanted to try this shaped bokeh trick last Christmas while doing my post on Basic Tips for Shooting Bokeh using Christmas Lights, but I never got around to it until now!


For shaped bokeh, you’ll need to create a custom DIY cover. It’s very easy and only takes a few minutes. (You can also buy them but the homemade ones work just as well.)

©IMG_2575_star bokeh

I’m not going into detail on how to create the little gadget to cover your lens, but there are many different ways to make a cover. You just need to cover your lens and block out excess light.

There is a lot of great info online – including this article by I Heart Faces: How to Make Shaped Bokeh {Photography Tutorial}, and here’s a marvelous YouTube video, but all you’ll need is:

– Thick black construction paper or cardboard
– Scissors or utility knife (shaped hole punch also works great)
– Tape
– Lens with a wide aperture (50 mm f/1.8 lens is great here)

©cover gadget

I obviously didn’t spend much time on the lens covers pictured above. The first cover I created is for stars only, while the heart hood is designed for interchangeable shapes. I found it easier (and better at keeping light out) to let the end hang over the width of my tube, opposed to the star hood, where it is more fitted.

Tips for Creating Bokeh

  • Set your aperture to the WIDEST setting possible (which is the smallest number). The lower the f-stop, the better the blur in the background.
  • Increase your ISO depending on how much light is available. Increasing it too much though can cause a lower quality image (noise).
  • Use a tripod to help stabilize your images.
  • Turn off the auto-focus and manipulate the focus ring.  Looking through the view finder, you’ll see hearts appear before your very eyes!
  • You need space!! The farther away you are, the bigger the bokeh. If you are too close, the shapes will NOT show up.

©shaped bokeh set up

Now go try it!! Have fun and play with your settings. I would love to see your results, so post me a link in the comments or tag me on Instagram (marv_amy).