Photographer's Delight | Bokeh

[Forenote: I'm starting a new blog series called Photographer's Delight... every once in awhile, I'll showcase some little fun camera trick/activity. Explain it and then show it! I thought bokeh would be a great starter!]

According to Wikipedia, "in photography, bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or 'the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.'"

(Normal bokeh without a shape plate)

Let's just say I love bokeh. I love the way the light gets distorted. I love the creativity that comes with it. Love, love, love. I loved it enough that I conducted a bokeh experiment with my high school photography students last year.

I also love Christmas. And what better way to show off awesome bokeh? Christmas lights! You can distort the light into any shape by making a "plate" to go over your lens.

- Lens cap
- Box cutter/X-acto knife
- Scissors
- Opaque cardstock (preferably black)
- Penny
- Tape

I took some cardstock, traced my lens cap on it, took a penny, traced the penny in the dead center of the lens cap circle... and then drew the shape I wanted to transform my light into! After I made sure everything was centered, I used a box cutter to cut out the inner shape and scissors to cut out the lens cap circle.

I shot wide open (think of your pupil being super big in a dark room-- that's what I had my camera do). And for this experiment, I kept my "subjects" out-of-focus.

Some shots I was close up to the Christmas lights, and others I was pretty distant. Distance between the light source and you makes a huge difference, so play around with it! Go on the ground, go to the side, tilt up the lens.

A tripod is recommended. I didn't use one for this experiment, but I would have if I wanted to do a portrait of some sort.

(Star plate bokeh. As you can see, it wasn't as successful since part of the star shape is cut off; it makes it very maple-leaf-like! The position of the plate on the lens plays a huge role! I probably will size down the star next time.)

(It's great to have a husband who will hold your sparkly birds! You will notice it's not a very sharp image. This is why a tripod is necessary!)

(Heart plate bokeh-- this was MUCH more successful than the star!)

(I played with the mirror behind our Christmas tree to get this effect.)

Now go do your own! Snowflakes, clovers, candy canes... there are many more shapes out there to test out!

Hope you enjoyed!

**UPDATE: I had some questions about which lens I used! For this, I used my 50mm 1.8. I've found prime lenses work especially well for this! :)

- Chelsea :)


  1. Oh you beat me to it! I saw a great article recently about Bokeh and the hearts and planned to try it. I love the softness of the light

    P.S. Rusty could totally make a living as a "hand model" !