Tag Archives: photography

91: Bokeh Filters

This week, at Jennifer’s suggestion, I took a look into creating lens filters for my camera that would allow us to create custom-shaped highlights in bokeh photography. Firing the laser at some simple black cardstock, I carved a 2″ diameter circle with some tabs to mount it to the zoom lens enclosure on my camera. In the center of said circle, at about a half an inch big, I cut three designs featured as series icons in Super Smash Brothers: Samus Aran’s logo, Team Starfox’s logo, and a paw representing Nintendogs. I used a nice sturdy rubber band to secure the tabbed circle directly to the front of the lens.

The Starfox filter was attached upside down; it flipped in practice.
The Starfox filter was attached upside down; it flipped in practice.

Laying out and cutting these pieces was so simple compared to actually capturing the images I aimed for. I didn’t do any proper measurement for how big the Smash-shaped holes should be, despite recommendations elsewhere to use an equation involving the focal length and aperture size of your camera. I was also using a fairly middling camera without much breadth of options in either of those two categories.

An assortment of paw-shaped highlights from Nintendogs
An assortment of paw-shaped highlights from Nintendogs
These are Samus Aran's logo, I swear!
These are Samus Aran’s logo, I swear! They flipped on me, too.

It took a few hours of straight up experimentation (and a couple bundles of Christmas lights for easy bright highlights) before I was able to capture what resembled the beautiful creamy bokeh art out there on the Internet. One thing I didn’t realize until I was taking my third batch of pictures (the Starfox logo) was that the art you choose might appear flipped depending on which end of the focus spectrum you’re settling on. My hardware doesn’t have a fully manual focus option, so it was pretty difficult getting the shapes to fully reveal themselves. Still, it was a little bit magical when the shapes finally grew out of the blur in my viewfinder as I continued to adjust aperture, zoom, and focus settings. If you’ve got a decent camera, you should definitely give bokeh style photography a try, even if you don’t have a filter to turn the highlights into fun shapes!

With the zoom wide and the focus as close as possible, the lens filter cropped the entire scene clearly!
With the zoom wide and the focus as close as possible, the lens filter cropped the entire scene clearly!
Tiny Starfox emblems, somewhat visible despite focus issues.
Tiny Starfox emblems, somewhat visible despite focus issues.