The Shaped Bokeh Effect – Experiments in DIY Photography
Ever heard of the Bokeh Master?
It’s this contraption that fits over the front of your lens, sort of like an opaque filter with a hole cut out. It magically transforms out-of-focus highlights in your pictureÂ from round dots to cool shapes.
Normally, out of focus lights look something like this:
Photo By Stefanvds(.com) on Flickr
But with a Bokeh Master those dots could be hearts, stars, headphones, little bicycles, and other cool stuff like this:
Photo By Doug Pieper on Flickr
But here’s the coolest part. Buying a Bokeh Master is fairly cheap (about $25 plus shipping) but making one for yourself can be even cheaper. Plus if you have any Xacto knife skills you can make pretty much any shape you want.
This weekend I made my own, and played around with some dripping spray paint and cloud shapes that I think turned out pretty cool.
(I added a watercolor effect after I took the picture just to smooth things out a little)
Photo By Kat Landreth (that's me)
If you’re interested in making you’re own creative bokeh effects you’re really in luck. There are tons of designs to choose from.
Design of the Bokeh Master
There are two parts to the bokeh master:
- Opaque disks with shapes cut out of them- this is the part that creates the bokeh shape- and…
- The carrier- the part that holds those disks in front of your lens
These two parts are separate so you can swap out just the disks with the bokeh shapes cut into them and try different bokeh effects on the fly, rather than constructing a whole device for every shape you want to try. (Though I’ve seen lots of people make one off bokeh caps I like the interchangeable two part design more.)
I’ve also seen simpler custom bokeh disks that are just the disks attached to the front of the lens with tape. I’ve even seen a design that uses a UV filter that looks really easy to put together.
There are lots of tutorials out there for how to make your own bokeh master.
I’ve Tried Two Versions
I tried the ‘lens hood’ version first. The carrier in this version is like a lens hood with a cap attached. The cap part has a square hole in the front and you can fit the bokeh effect disks over the hole with tape or by creating little slot or tabss in the cap for them to slide into.
It looks something like this:
Photo By eirikso on Filckr
Then I made a version of the actual bokeh master . (I just adapted the design of the first one to work more like the actual bokeh master).
In this design, rather than a fitted cap to go over one lens, there’s a round center area with a bunch of tabs around it. The round center has a hole to place the shapes over. You use a rubber band to secure the tabs to your lens to keep the whole thing in place.
Looks like this. (Sorry, the pic is ‘all rights reserved’ so I can’t use it here without stealing. I try not to steal.)
The first version is a little limited if you want to use your bokeh master for more than one lens. You’re basically making a custom cap to go over one specific lens. The second version is much more flexible, butÂ a little less, er, professional looking. It will fit over pretty much any lens but it’s held in place by a rubber band.
I made both of the carrier designs out of black craft foam instead of construction paper or card stock. I figured the foam would be more forgiving if I threw it into my bag, stuffed it into a pocked, or just generally smashed it a little. The disks I made out of card stock, but since they’re small and two dimensional I thought I would have less chance of utterly destroying them.
So far so good.
I guessed the sizes of the holes but you don’t have to. There’s a great article at DIY photography.com that tells you all about the shaped bokeh effect and how to get the best results from your homemade bokeh master.
Going a Step Further
I haven’t experimented with putting a subject in the foreground yet, but I’ll try to this week. I also want to try putting a bokeh master on the front of my video camera, b/c it works for video too! (Also check out this sweet music video made right here in Santa Monica using a video camera and a bokeh master.)
Check it Out Y’all… check it check it out
Until i get some more creative artsy time, here’s some examples of other people playing with out of focus highlights. Some of them are round, some of them are fun shapes, and all of them are really freakin’ cool. Enjoy