An impressive yet simple photographic effect

This one sparked a bit of interest over at the Norwegian blog I’m contributing to for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. So, I’ll share the story here as well.

Video tutorial on how to make that cardboard cover for your lens

I recently bought the lens you see in the image. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. Then Mr. Erlandsen pointed me to this.

Before you know it I made this one:

Equipped it with a snow crystal and mounted it on my camera:

I used some standard paper cutters to make the patterns.


Before you know it the images that have a traditional round bokeh:

…started looking like this:

Some more cutting and shapes and off we go…

All kinds of cool stuff. Christmas tree with hearts…

Street scene with hearts


And you find my complete DIY Bokeh set over at Flickr.

An impressive yet simple photographic effect

52 thoughts on “An impressive yet simple photographic effect

  1. Beth says:

    I found this blog post through the DIYPhotography website. I am having problems with the bokeh steps and didn’t know if you could guide me?
    I’m using a D80 with an 18-135 lens and set to 18mm with a 1.4 aperature (i believe) come out with only my cutout then the rest of the frame is black. Any suggestions?

  2. Beth says:

    So going all the way out to 135 then setting the aperature as low as it’ll go may work?
    Should the shutter speed be anything in particular?

    Thanks so much for your fast comment and help!!!

  3. Yes, 135 mm and the lowest aperture you can get should do the trick. But it’s even better if you get a lens with aperture 2.8 or lower.

    The shutter speed could be anything, but if you’re shooting hand held it should be at least 1/60. Basically, it is controlled by your aperture. You need the lowest possible aperture, and you’ll get the shutter speed your lowest aperture will give you anyway. One problem is that you loose a bit of light with this trick, so you might want to increase the ISO to 400 or 800. Depending on the shooting conditions.

  4. Beth says:

    ah ha! Last night I tried it opening the lens all the way to 135 but the biggest aperature I can get is 5.6…so I decreased to about 70mm but the lowest I can then get is 4. So that’s the issue, I believe, is that I am not able to get a big enough aperature. I saw some lens this morning online, a Sigma 18-50 with a 2.8 aperature so it looks like I need to bite the bullet and invest in another lens. Not just for this of course, but for general portraiture.

    I really appreciate your comments. As soon as I get this to work I’ll show you my results!

  5. For portraits I would have considered a prime lens like a 50mm 1.4 or 1.8. They are cheap and usually very sharp. And on the D80 it will turn into a beautiful 80mm portrait lens. And that kind of lens will work very well with the experiment here as well.

  6. Hi Eirik,
    I was wondering if you could possibly do a tutorial on how you made the cardboard ‘hood’. It’s great that you’re able to use interchangeable shapes!

  7. Thank you! I’ve now done some tests with my new 5D MkII full frame, and I need another hood. On the full frame I need a bigger hole to make the pattern. The one I have now is vignetting on the full frame camera…

  8. stella says:

    Hey erik,
    i manage to get the light to the shape that i want but unfortunately, there’s still a vignetting around the image instead of them coming out clean. i’m using a 18-55mm standard kit lens and i’ve set it to 55m f/5.6. is there anyway that you could help me with this?

  9. Unfortunately this effect won’t be perfect unless you have a lens with the possibility of an F-stop below f2.8.

    F5.6 like you use on your lens gives a too deep depth of field. And that creates the vignetting.

  10. Atle says:

    Its an D80. the crop factor is about 1,5 i guess. But never mind, it worked as a charm, if thats the rigth ekspression 🙂

    btw thanks for a great tutorial.

  11. Amie says:

    Hi sorry I am a bit confused – could you help?
    I made the ‘hood’ that goes over the camera, put my camera on the lowest aperture, but when I took a picture it was just black with the cutout shape in the middle? I don’t understand what you have to do when you take the photo? Thank you!!!!

  12. I understand. It will be very, very difficult to get the bokeh-effect with that camera. Maybe, if you zoom in to full tele, takes an image of something that is very close and have some lights out of focus in the background.

    In general, only SLR cameras have a sensor that is big enough to achieve a proper bokeh. In addition to that you need an aperture of 2.8 or preferably lower to make sure the background is completely out of focus.

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