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Holiday Lights + a DIY Bokeh FIlter

holiday lights bokeh filter| the hobby room diaries

I am a huge fan of bokeh (the blurring of background objects of lights in photos) and with an abundance of holiday lights at this time of year, bokeh light sources are readily available.  Here are some examples with the boys, taken in front of our Christmas tree and at an outdoor light display.

  (Looks like Camo does the same pose everywhere, huh?)

Regular old round bokeh is great, but have you seen pictures with shaped bokeh?  So cool.  I Heart Faces has some great tutorials on taking bokeh photos, but also on how to make your own shaped bokeh filter.  And all it takes to make your own bokeh filter is basic supplies you already have laying around.  I have been meaning to do this for the whole of December and now that I’ve been threatened with the tree coming down, I finally got around to it.

I went about it a little differently because my paper punch didn’t go far enough across the page to put the hole in the center of the circle I cut out.  I like this better because now I only have to store a little circle of paper instead of a bigger bokeh filter.

bokeh filter | the hobby room diaries

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Measure the width of the glass part of your UV filter.  Do not include the outside edge and do not use this method if you aren’t using a UV filter, you don’t want to be taping something on your actual lens.  The idea is to get a circle that fits flush inside the edges of the lens, so measure well.
  2. Cut out a circle with the same diameter as the glass on your UV filter.  Use a circle cutter or a compass to make a perfect circle.  A perfect circle is why this works–an irregular circle could let extra light in and that will ruin the whole effect.
  3. Punch a shape in the middle of the circle, folding the edge in necessary to get the shape as close to the center as possible.
  4. Secure your paper bokeh filter to the UV filter with a couple pieces of blue painter’s tape or electrical tape.  Open up your aperture and start snapping!
I made both star and heart bokeh filters and here are the results.  Snowflakes or trees would be a great choice at this time of year and maybe some basic daisy or sunshine shapes for the spring.  The choices are endless, so you could just go crazy.  And I mean going crazy in the best way possible.
holiday lights bokeh filter | the hobby room diaries
holiday lights bokeh filter| the hobby room diaries
What crazy shape would you like to see the lights on your Christmas tree transformed into?

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  1. OMGosh – I am so jealous of your pics and how they turned out! You seriously made such pretty filters and your pics just turned out so well. If only our tree wasn't gone, I'd be trying again with your method…. I'm so impressed! Thank you so much for emailing me and telling me about this post! And I LOVE your blog – I'm your newest follower! : )

    -Mel the Crafty Scientist

  2. Pamela says:

    Do you have some suggestions on camera settings for those of us who are just learning how to move past the automatic setting? 🙂 I tried this and couldn't get the shaped lights. Maybe it wasn't my settings, but the size of my punch, now I look again, I think yours are larger.
    Thanks for the fantastic post and for sharing these photos! I can't wait to get this effect.

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