Monday, December 31, 2012

How to make heart (and other) shaped bokeh Christmas lights

Ever wanted to make different shaped bokeh Christmas lights?  Inspired by our Christmas snowmen-light sunglasses, I thought I'd try my hand at making our Christmas lights look heart shaped.  And then, once I figured out how to do that, I had to make some other shapes as well...

How to Make Different Shaped Bokeh Photos

how to take heart, cat, star, arrow and different shaped bokeh photos
Heart, star, cat, and arrow shaped Christmas lights

Keep reading to see how I made different shaped bokeh!

how to make different shaped bokeh lights with photography
Snowmen and anchor shaped Christmas lights
I know what you're thinking, "Get behind me foul witch.  What evil and magic trickery is this?"

Let's Different shaped Bokeh Christmas Lights!

Well, let me tell you- no magic or fancy photo editing software was required.  All I needed were these materials:
(1) a camera with interchangeable lens (we use a micro 4/3 SLR)
(2) black/blue construction paper (maybe other dark colors would work as well?)
(3) scissors
(4) rubber band /hairband

Now, just for the record- I'm not a fancy-shmancy photographer.  Yes, I do take a lot of photos and yes we do own a mini SLR camera.  However, I keep my camera on "auto" mode 99.9% of the time and I do basic editing using Picassa.  So if I can do this... ANYONE can do this.

So, here's what I did:
First, I peeked online and found these helpful tutorials by Catschy Crafts and Photoplusmag.  Then, I came up with my own methods.

how to make your photos have different shaped bokeh Christmas lightsDirections:
(1)  Take off your lens cap and place it on the construction paper.
(2)  Trace out a circle that's much larger than your lens cap.  (This circle has to be large enough to cover your lens like a cap.)
(3) Cut out the large circle.
(4) Cut out a small shape in the middle of your circle.  (If you have a craft punch, you could use that to punch out your shape.  Just make sure your shape isn't too big.)
(5) Position your circle over the lens so that the cutout shape is roughly in the middle. Attach the circle to the lens with a rubber band.  (I used my hair tie.)
(6)  Put your camera in manual focus mode and point it at the Christmas lights.  (Now it's not focusing on anything.)
(7)  Turn the focus ring to make the lights look really out of focus.
(8) Snap a photo and marvel at the different shaped Christmas lights.

(Alternative to steps 6-7:  Sometimes I also just left my camera in auto-focus mode.  Then, I placed my hand between myself and the Christmas lights and focused the camera on my hand.  After that I just removed my hand before actually snapping my final shot.)

super easy way to create different shaped bokeh from Christmas lights and construction paper(Alternative to steps 1-5: I got a bit lazy towards the end and didn't want to cut out and attach circles to my lens.  I found that I could still get different shaped lights if I just held up a piece of black construction paper in front of my lens and snapped photos in manual mode.)

And there you have it.  With the right camera, construction paper, scissors, and a bit of imagination, you too can easily create magical Christmas images like these:

how to make heart shaped bokeh Christmas lights

how to make fish shaped bokeh from Christmas lights

how to make chevron shaped bokeh Christmas lights tutorial


  1. Love the chevron ones! I have only done hearts. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks! I love that they're just so colorful and happy looking.

  3. I always wondered how this was done. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Very cool, Les! TOOOOO COOOOOOL. Thanks for sharing a fun way of using a camera. LOVE IT!

  5. hi! ive tried this with my epl 1 and it got good results. But the next day, i used the same filter that Ive made but it wont create heart bokeh anymore, just black heart outline/frame like a pinhole..pls help..ive followed every steps u mentioned.. thanks in advance..

    1. hi chrissy! thanks for trying the tutorial out. i'm sorry that it didn't work the second time.

      i talked with hubby about this and we think that maybe the problem lies with step number 7. after you put your camera in manual mode, you have to turn the focus ring so that the lights appear really REALLY out of focus. (they should look like big circles, not lights.) then try snapping the photo. now you should see some lovely shapes.

      let me know if this works, ok? good luck!

    2. Yes, I have tried rotating the ring to make it out of focus but still no luck :( sorry to bother but thank you so much. This is the only tutorial I found online using a micro 4/3 camera and kit lens and with fantastic results.. :)..i was really happy the first time I've tried it.. :)..I will try again..Thanks!..But are there specific sizes as for the heart hole?

    3. Hrmm.. my shapes were pretty small, slightly less wide than my pinkie fingernail. but if it worked the first time, then your shape should be fine. i'll talk to my husband again tonight and see if he has any other ideas....

  6. Thanks.. By the way, did you zoom the lens before rotating the ring? bcoz if u wont zoom it ,all i can see is a really small heart shape.. this was my first try-- I really love the bokeh ..But now my next attempts look like these :(

    1. hey!

      - yes! zoom it in if you're using the original camera lens (the lens that came with the camera)

      - we were just looking at the photos.... are you pointing your camera at christmas lights (or any small light source)?

  7. Wonderful photos, they really look professional, I`ll keep this advice in mind :)

  8. What a great technique, I love it!!!!!

    1. I'll keep an eye out on your blog for it! Glad you liked it! (Hope it's helpful)

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