Photography DIY: how to make your own bokeh shapes

I've seen photos created using a DIY camera trick and couldn't resist testing it myself. Bokeh is the term for the out-of-focus areas in a photo, particularly those little highlights created when photographing small points of light. Usually those highlights are circles or polygons, but it's lots of fun to make your own shapes.

You'll need a DSLR camera and a lens with a large aperture. I'm definitely no photography expert, so refer to this good article for info about lenses and settings for taking shots with bokeh. I used my Canon Digital Rebel XSi with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (this is my only extra lens; it's relatively cheap, lens-wise, and I love it).

You'll also need a piece of black paper, pencil, scissors, tape, and a craft knife or decorative paper punch.

Cut a strip of paper long enough to wrap around your lens. I made mine 10" x 1.5". I put a strip of tape along the entire length of one edge so it would be easy to peel pieces of tape off this smooth area, just in case I wanted to switch my shape cutouts later. Wrap the paper strip around the outside of your camera lens to form a cylinder and secure it with tape.

Then set this paper tube on a piece of black paper and trace around it. Cut out the circle. This will be the cap on the paper tube that fits over your lens. Use a paper punch or Xacto knife to cut a hole in the middle of the circle. Make the shape somewhere between 1/2" and 3/4".

I used a knife to cut a cloud, asterisk, and tulip. Tape the paper circle to the tube to form a cap that will fit neatly over your lens.

To test this little project, I needed some tiny points of light, so I threw some Christmas lights on a clothes rack (in daylight, but nighttime shots are cool, too). Then I fitted my paper cap over the lens and made sure my aperture was open as far as it would go.

Focusing on my finger held right in front of my camera caused the background to go out of focus. I moved my finger away, took the photo, and got this:


Putting an object in the foreground is fun, too. I totally amused myself and recommend you try this.
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