Love Is In The Air: Create Your Own Heart-Shaped Bokeh

by Karen on Monday, February 13, 2012

Post image for Love Is In The Air: Create Your Own Heart-Shaped Bokeh

Lately, the combination of a busy school schedule and my addiction to Instagram has resulted in serious camera-neglect.  I've found little time and reason to take the ol' DSLR out.  So when I saw this simple lens filter DIY, I jumped at the opportunity to play around and have fun– and just in time for Valentine's Day!  You don't need to be a serious photographer to create heart-shaped bokeh.  “Bokeh” is a photography term that essentially means blur.  In photography– especially food photography– this blur creates an aesthetic quality by keeping the subject of your photo in crisp focus, while the background appears blurry.  At night, lights that are out of focus create circles of color that give photos a magical and ethereal feel that I love.  The circle is created by light coming into the lens and outlines the shape of the aperture.  Manipulating this shape essentially involves creating a new (and slightly smaller) aperture with a custom shape, like a heart or whatever shape you desire.

So what exactly do you need to create this effect?  First, you will need a prime lens with a large aperture, for example 1.8 or 2.0.  A great lens to start with is a 50 mm prime lens.  Unfortunately, I don't think this will work well on a point-and-shoot camera.  I imagine the size of your heart-shaped hole would have to be teensy.  Also, I have tried this on my zoom lens and it didn't work.  If you look through the viewfinder, only to see a heart-shaped vignette, something has gone wrong.  I have seen some people say that it worked on their zoom lens, but I'm unsure how they were able to, so if you happen to know please share!  Second, you need thick black paper or cardboard.  I used black paper since it was easier, but if you plan on using this filter a lot, invest in the cardboard.  Third, you will need some mad math skills.  Ok, maybe just a calculator.  Because the size of the heart-shaped hole needs to fit within the aperture of your lens, you will need to figure out how large your aperture is in millimeters at its widest.  (Don't forget, in creating a bokeh effect always set your aperture to its widest setting)  The f-stop (i.e.: number of your aperture size, like f/1.8 or f/2.0) is just a ratio of the focal length to the diameter of the aperture.  So, in order to figure out the diameter of the apeture you just divide the focal length (e.g.: 50 mm) by the f-stop (e.g.: 2.0), which means the diameter of a 50 mm lens at an f-stop of 2.0 is 25 mm wide.  A 100 mm lens at an f-stop of 2.0 is 50 mm wide.

Making sense so far?

Therefore, your heart-shaped hole must be slightly smaller than this diameter so that the camera captures the shape of the heart instead of the circle.  So in my 50 mm lens, the shape of the heart measured slightly smaller than 25 mm.

The measurements do not need to be exactly precise, but get it as close as you can.  I created these images with a 50 mm and 100 mm prime lens and both created amazing effects.  Feel free to play around with whatever lens you have on hand, but a 50 mm lens is best.  It is great not just for this project but is an all-around useful lens.

I know, my brain hurts from all this math too so let's get this thing going!


– Thick black construction paper, or cardboard
– Scissors, or utility knife if using cardboard
– Prime lens with a wide aperture (A 50 mm f/1.8 lens is great here)
– Ruler

Using the inner rim of your sky light lens or protective lens, trace a circle on the black paper.  Cut the circle out.  This circle should sit flush and snuggly against your lens.  Find the middle of the circle by lightly folding the circle in half.  Open the paper and then fold it again so the fold lines meet at the middle of the circle.  Measure out a square of how large your hole will be based on the above calculation.  So for a 50 mm lens, my square was 25 mm by 25 mm in the center of the circle.

Draw a heart-shape and using a small pair of scissors cut out this hole.  Place the paper up against your lens and cover with the sky light.  And that's it!

Tips for shooting at night:

– Set your aperture to its widest setting 1.8, 2.0, 2.8…
– Increase your ISO depending on how much light is available.
– Use a tripod to help stabilize your images
– Turn off the auto-focus and manipulate the focus ring.  Looking through the view finder, you'll see hearts appear before your very eyes!
– Get out!  I wandered the streets of Los Angeles with my camera and discovered so many new and interesting details of the city by playing with this filter.

Good luck and have fun!  I leave you with a little LA love…

Drunk off love yet?

(All images by Globetrotter Diaries)



deana@lostpastremembered February 13, 2012 at 5:56 am

How did you do that, you brilliant girl????? Very cool technique… and makes me feel more romantic already!!

Marnely Rodriguez February 13, 2012 at 7:35 am

Love this idea!!

s February 13, 2012 at 7:39 am

that is so adorable! x s

Hannah February 13, 2012 at 8:13 am

So cute and creative!

birdyblue February 13, 2012 at 8:38 am

This is such a great idea! I have to try this … greetings birdy

Angel February 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

This is quite hard. I can’t perfectly make it. You’re great! I hope I could do the same. =)

Yaya February 13, 2012 at 8:59 am


Thanks for the tip!

Paul B February 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

Brilliant. I’m so doing this for bg in my video. Actually, this is going to come in handy for some of my clients as well. Kudos!!

Jeanatte February 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Incredibly cute! I’m going on vacation this weekend and will be trying this out!

Mely February 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Great idea. Just on time to share with other who love to experiment with their pictures shots.

Thanks a lot.


Steph February 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm

This is so awesome, I’ve always wondered how they did it 😉 Thanks for sharing!!

Belinda @zomppa February 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm

What a neat little trick!! Thanks for sharing!

Creative Photo Albums February 13, 2012 at 8:11 pm

This is such a nice idea. Very creative indeed. Who would ever think that putting in a paper with a heart-shaped hole in the center would create something like this? Love it!

Grace - Stripes & Sequins February 14, 2012 at 11:51 am

This DIY is so fantastic! I can’t wait to try it – so so clever!!!
Happy Valentine’s Day.

Beth (OMG! Yummy) February 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Oh you are very clever and talented. This is way outta my league but I appreciate it regardless! Big plans for tonight? What are you cooking?

Anya Adores February 15, 2012 at 8:18 am

AHHHH OMG I just about died when I saw this amazement – wow!!
Defo a must try at home – thanks so much for sharing,

Lauren February 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Oh my gosh, what a fabulous idea! I love this!

akhmar February 18, 2012 at 7:55 am

greats… work on my fuji prosumer….

Nina February 24, 2012 at 7:50 am

Really cool article, thanks!!!! Here’s my result: (sorry, it’s german)

genevieve February 24, 2012 at 8:37 am

Okay, that settles it: I absolutely need to jump on this trend. LOVE what you did with it!!!

Ching March 3, 2012 at 3:53 am

Seriously! THIS IS SO AMAZING!!! :O Thank you for the tute!

Natalie March 8, 2012 at 1:59 am

What an amazing technique! I would never have thought to do what you did, but it brings out the most amazing, romantic edge to your photos. Very impressive – thank you so much for sharing. I will be passing your blog around 😉 Share the love!

Julia March 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm

This is very, very cool and simple and I cannot wait to try it!

Andrea March 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I LOVE the second picture so much! Is there anyway that I could buy/get a high res copy to have the picture printed for my living room??


alexandra March 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm

would you consider selling a print of your ‘music’ heart picture?
I’M IN LOVE! and need that photo framed and on my walls!
pretty please 🙂

Memi March 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Hi! i have a nikon l120.. does it work for this effect? because i try but i failed! =(
But.. congratulations for these photos! there’re fantastic!! =)

Karen April 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm

What type of lens are you using? It all depends on the lens you are using– a prime 50 mm is best. Good luck!

kelsey April 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm

epic! soo trying this with shaun.

bwbears April 5, 2012 at 4:47 am

Such wonderful pictures and such a stunning effect! I found your blog through a fellow blogger and your blog is really lovely.

Karen April 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Thanks so much!

riixooe April 19, 2012 at 6:45 am

hi karen!

i so loved this post!
you can see my result here:
hope it’s okay, to use your photo, if not, please tell me!

Peaches May 8, 2012 at 9:36 am

That is so creative!! I came here from Honestly..WTF and I’m glad I did 🙂

raya May 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I love you for this! I always assumed it was a Photoshop thing and didn’t give it another thought. I’m doing this at my next wedding.

Ellie M. June 4, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I tried this and all it did was reduce the subject to a heart shape, i.e. the photo was black aside from an area that was shaped like a heart. The lights didn’t change into heart shapes, the entire photo did. This isn’t helpful to get the look in the photos shown here.

Alex July 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Seems you did something wrong.. Everyone else was very happy with their results and it is quite rude of you to criticize this tutorial, because it was most likely your own fault. My suggestion is read and try it again, and if you still get the same results, ask a professional about your camera lens.

Angelina June 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I tried this with black craft foam and it worked quite well. Thanks for the idea! 🙂

sarah the baker yoon June 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

Amazing amazing amazing! Thanks for the step-by-step instructions!

Alex July 12, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I have a 70-300mm lens and it worked alright… Zooming was a problem and i had to cut the heart reeeaaalllyyy small, but was pleased with the results.. Thank you

kym July 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm

i haven’t tried it yet, but love the idea! wondering, have you tried taking pictures with people in them, or just the skyline? i’m curious to know if it would work having a subject in the photo as well! it would be fun for engagement photos!

Danyale August 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!! SOOOOOO excited to try this, I wanted one for this weekend and now I don’t even have to buy it!!!! Bless you beyond words for being kind enough to share!!!!

Emily Raphael August 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Thanks for the tutorial. I had so much fun playing around with heart shaped bokeh.

Cris August 31, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hey! This is awesome. I’m definitely trying it.
I have an analog reflex, so I hope it’ll work with the same instructions.

Sam October 18, 2012 at 4:07 am

Cutest thing ever!! thank you so much for sharing this great thing with us. It took me about 3 hours to figure it out, but now I’m so happy with it! thanks again!

Stephanie M December 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Neat! I assume this works with other shapes too?

Olvido Madrid January 11, 2013 at 7:36 am

wow – love it!

y January 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I can’t figure this out. I have a NIKKOR 42x wide optical zoom lens (its not a DSLR camera) and it says 4.3-180mm 1:3-5.9? Any suggestions?

y January 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm


lagrima de luna February 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

hello, its an amazing tutorial but I am having a hard time making it work… i have a 50mm lens an di did it on cardboard, but maybe my heart was too tiny, about 5 mm, but, idk, it just dowsnt work….
any extra help? please?

Lauren February 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

This looks like so much fun, I’m going to try this weekend. Thanks for the great idea. Lauren

Clayton Lee March 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm

so beautiful 🙂

hayley April 19, 2013 at 12:13 am

omg its really a nice idea ..

Tips Fotografi July 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

wow its amazing
Thanks for the great idea, I already to try using AFs 50mm f1.8 lens

anonymous July 27, 2013 at 9:59 am

i would really like to know if I can do this with my Kodak Easyshare DX6490. I’m a beginner at taking pictures and adjusting the camera’s settings manually so I was wondering if you could please help me by looking up my camera and letting me know if it’s possible for me to do without using an additional lens if that makes any sense X} thanks for the amazing tutorial <3

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