Saturday, March 1, 2014

How to Make a Shaped Bokeh Lens Attachment

If bokeh isn't my favorite photography effect, I'm not sure what is. Long long ago, I fell in love with shaped photography, and it took me a while to figure out there was no Photoshopping involved. It came straight from the camera, and I was beyond impressed. The only thing stopping me was my lack of the right lens, so as soon as I could, I got my hands on a fixed 50mm f1/8 lens for just over $100, and I followed the first tutorial in the search results.

What is bokeh?
Bokeh is any unfocused part in a photograph, which would be appropriate seeing as the Japanese word translates to "blur" in English. It is much more pronounced with a shallow depth of field, meaning when a lens focuses on things within a short distance.

How does this lens attachment turn circular bokeh into shapes?
Essentially, it replaces your aperture with a shaped hole. An aperture is usually a circular opening in a lens, but by fixing a new smaller shape over it, you're creating a shaped aperture.

Silkworm and I often put this method to use when we're working with bokeh for personal photo shoots. The results never cease to make me take way more photos than I need to. We did modify the original tutorial a little bit, based on our own trial and error. Try it out for yourself!

Lens with a wide aperture (f/1.8 or lower/wider)
Thick black paper
Glue (optional)
Hole punch (optional)
Craft knife (optional)
Rubber band

Step One: Cut out a circle of black paper as wide as the diameter of your lens.

Step Two: Cut out a circle in the middle of the circle, using scissors or a craft knife.

Step Three: Cut out a small square of black paper that will fit over the hole in the circle you just made.

Step Four: Cut out a shape in the small square. Use scissors or a craft knife for more freedom, or use shaped hole punches for clean cuts and more complicated shapes. Make sure the shape is just about the same size as your aperture. You can check if it's okay by temporarily taping it over the hole in the black circle you made in Steps One-Two, then holding the circle up to your lens (make sure the shaped hole is centered), looking through the viewfinder at something like string lights, and switching your camera to manual focus so you can unfocus your lens to make bokeh. If there's a lot of vignetting (shadows on the edges), it's too small, and if it's not making the right shapes, it's too big. 

Step Five: When you're satisfied with your shaped hole, tape the square down on the circle over the hole.

Step Six: Cut out three 3/4-inch wide*, 3-inch long* (*estimated) strips of black paper. Tape or glue them around the circle evenly spaced from each other. These will serve as the strips that will wrap around your camera's lens to be secured with a rubber band.

Step Seven: Fit the attachment over your lens and stretch a rubber band around to hold down the legs, making sure the focus ring can still be adjusted freely.

And suddenly, you're a bokeh master! Since the black square with the shaped hole is easily removable, you can make a bunch of different shapes to use with the same attachment. If you try this tutorial out, pretty please let us see your results, and if you have any questions, please feel welcome to ask them!

- You could potentially make shaped bokeh with a narrow aperture lens (such as a Nikon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6), but you'd have to cut a smaller shape.
- If you only have smallish hole punches, use them to get started with a shape idea and then cut inside the shape to make it bigger.
- Check out this article on DIY Photography for more information!


  1. this looks so great! didn't realise you could do it without editing the photo! I don't have a camera that I could do this on but I would definitely give it a try if I did!

    1. I thought I was the only one who thought that the photo had to be edited! Glad I could help a fellow misled person! ^-^

      I mean, supposedly you could potentially try it on a point and shoot camera (a regular compact camera), but you'd have to be able to cut out a 2mm shape because the aperture is typically that small!

      Hope you do get to try this someday, one way or another! :)

  2. This looks pretty easy. I know Lensbaby has this option but I've never really thought about a DIY option.

    1. Yup! I mean, I totally understand Lensbaby's is plastic and it's much more durable and the edges of the bokeh come out more smooth rather than choppy, but it's $20 for the pre-cut shapes, and then you also have to buy one of their lenses as well--which personally, I'm not a fan of their effects! Plus, you might as well go DIY just to save the money. ^-^

  3. That is incredibly cool--I had no idea you could create bokeh this way! I definitely have to try this sometime; thank you for the tutorial!


Silkworm and I love hearing what other people think. In fact, it's probably our favorite thing, so don't be shy to leave us a note or ask a question!

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