How to Make Shaped Bokeh {Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces}

Making shaped bokeh can add a touch of fun to your holiday photos.  In this free tutorial, our contributor Dana Suggs shows you how to create bokeh shapes.

Last year, I posted the above photo of Brooklyn’s letter to Santa on Facebook.  Here it is again for those that don’t stalk me on Facebook. LOL

I know…..sweet huh?

But I got a lot of comments on the beautiful snowflake bokeh in the background.  No, my Christmas lights are not snowflake shaped, they are just normal little white tree lights. In fact, I have made them in other shapes as well.
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.
(Not the best photo, I had a different camera last year that did not do high ISO very well. We make do with what we have until we can afford better.)
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.
That’s my Chandler in the top photo.  And in the cute pink winter coat, all blurry in the background, is my Brooklyn, watching the ducks in the pond.

But, my favorite shape this season, was probably the snowflakes.  As you can tell.
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.

Yes, even my amazing turkey from Christmas dinner last year, was NOT immune to my obsession of the fun shaped bokeh!

OK, yes, I may be totally odd, but I’ve come to terms with it.

Wanna know my secret?  It’s totally hi-tech and probably has too many instructions for you to possibly duplicate it.  I’m a complete genius with expensive gadgets too expensive for anyone else to afford.  I’m just saying…..Want me to show you anyway?

Don’t be jealous….it’s a sin you know….
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.
Yes, that’s a poorly cut circle with a snowflake hole punched in the center, or what passes as the center, on solid black construction paper.

I told you not to be jealous. HAAA!

Making the “Gadget”

Use ordinary thick black paper (construction paper will work, this just happens to be scrapbook paper) and you cut it into a strip large enough to cover the entire front of your lens. I used scrap white paper first to measure the lens I was going to use. Then I cut it out of my black paper.
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.
Then I traced around the lens I was going to use. My favorite lens to use is the 85 mm 1.8.  I LOVE the creamy, yummy bokeh it creates!

How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.

Then you take a hole punch of whatever shape you desire, and you hole punch the shape in the middle of the circle. I folded mine in a little bit so I could reach the center of your circle. That’s important. If the cut is not in the center, the camera will pick up parts of the black circle.
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.

Then just tape your black circle over your little cylinder you made to fit over your lens. I had to use some pretty odd tape because I have lots of little ones in my house now that like to steal my tape and tape up pictures they have made all over their bedroom. It’s cute, so I will work with odd electrical tape when I have to. Then just slide your hood over your lens!
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.


This is the end result….pretty cool huh? And it fits right into my budget! 😉
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.

Here are some in-camera instructions to help you out:

1|  Make sure you use the WIDEST aperture possible (which is the smallest number). For my particular lens (85mm 1.8), my aperture was set at 1.8. The lower the f-stop, the better the blur in the background.
2| You need some separation from your subject and the bokeh. If your subject is sitting right next to the lights you are wanting to change shape, it won’t work. Everything will be in focus, and you won’t have the fuzzy, light-bokeh in the background.
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.

3| Use dark or black paper. Light will leak into the little paper hood, and it will not work as well with lighter paper.
4| Keep the hood just a little larger in width than your lens so the lens will be able to focus.
5| If the hood does not work for you, just use the round circle (cut larger than your actual lens so light does not leak in). You can focus on whatever your subject is and stop down to hold that focus. Then hold your little circle over the front of your lens, keeping the subject in focus, and snap your picture.

Then, you just practice on anything that will sit still long enough for you to shoot! Today, it seems the toys are the only things that aren’t moving at the speed of light. We work with what we have. HAAAA!
How to Make Shaped Bokeh. Holiday Photography Tutorial by I Heart Faces.

Be kind to others, and have some FUN with your photos!
Dana Suggs-I Heart Faces ContributorI love to laugh! I think kindness is better than being rich. I love to hang out with my family.  I shoot with a Nikon D700, and I am a strong believer that you can NEVER stop learning!  Find me on my Photography website,  Facebook Fanpage and, of course, I am a PROUD Contributor for I Heart Faces!

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Sarah December 27, 2015

Every time that I try to make this kind of picture, I get get a heart-shaped picture. How can I fix this?


vineeth December 9, 2014


Thanks for this wonderful tip. I want to try creating these during this holiday season. One question: should it be a black hard paper or any other color would do, as long as I have it close to the lens?



Curtis Cousino July 5, 2014

I followed the directions but did not get multiple Bokehs in the picture. How are multiple Bokehs achieved?


danyael December 11, 2014

What is the distance between the main subject and the background? The closer the background is the less bokeh you are going to get. If you are taking someones picture and the background is three feet away you are going to get more bokeh than you would if the background was only one foot away.


Jen Kempen December 11, 2013

Maaaan, I tried and it didn’t work. Maybe I didn’t have it completely centered?


Milie December 21, 2014

I found that the smaller your cut out the better the shapes worked, mine was too big at first and gave me odd pac-man shaped bookeh, try making our opening smaller :)


Beth Daghfal December 8, 2013

Dana.. you are so awesome! I just love your down to earth, sense of humor and creativity!! I would NEVER have thought of this… and it looks amazing!! Merry Christmas!


zoe November 20, 2013

hi, i tried to do this
but instead of bokeh i just get the black vignette in s shape of heart or snowflake etc


stacy December 5, 2013

same here!!! I’m confused


Venice May 19, 2014

same here! i don’t know why!


Jen December 9, 2014

You can do it with photoshop. I’m not even sure how it would work, I think it’s fake.


Milie December 21, 2014

Zoom all the way in with your lens, that should work better


natalie November 15, 2013

how did you get multiples of the cutout onto one photo?


Jordan August 22, 2013

Nice tutorial! Created my own this afternoon with a macro lens and it worked really well! Currently building up my collection of shapes!


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