Bokeh. Pronounced “bow-key” (ish) it’s a word I find enormously phonetically annoying which means “stuff in a photograph what ain’t in focus, like”; technically speaking, of course.

Well, specifically, points of light/colour which aren’t in focus, oft-times looking similar to this:

Well, that’s all well and good, but it’s rather boring. Luckily, due to some stupendously complex trickery of the photons, it’s possible to liven things up and shape this “bokeh” yourself, whilst leaving the contents of your focal plane perfectly intact. There’s a fine tutorial on how to do it that there’s no point me re-writing, but the basics are:

  1. get a lens with suitably low f-number
  2. get a bit of card (or paper)
  3. cut out the shape you want your “bokeh” to be in from your card (the linked tutorial explains how big to make it, which is important to get right)
  4. align this now be-holed card in front of your lens (as close as possible)
  5. ????
  6. profit

Mostly, as in that tutorial, people tend to create little heart- or star-shaped pseudo-lenses and thus create heart- or star-shaped “bokeh”, which is improving on the vanilla… but pretty played out.

I decided to go one step dumber better, and made the below. Now in this example I don’t have anything in my focal plane so you’ll just have to take my word for it for that stuff in focus wouldn’t be in the shape of STEVE, but, it wouldn’t.

Much better!

How? This:

Two 100W bulbs shining through holes poked in a black cardboard box, with the two parts of my little custom bokeh-pseudo-lens-holder(tm, naturally) shown there too. On the left, my painstakingly carved out “STEVE lens”, with the holder to insert it in to (which then fits snugly over my 60mm f/2.8 prime) on the right. In this way I can easily carve out other shit custom bokeh lenses and slot them in to the same holder. Bingo!

The size of your STEVEs (or hearts, or stars) depends entirely on how far out of focus the points of light are, so you can achieve varying effects with this:


P.S. I was hooked up to this tutorial by This Guy Named Jonti who does video production stuff in Brighton and is all round a bit of a camera dude. Happy now?!