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)
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)