Get a de­signer bokeh ef­fect

Ja­son Par­nell-Brookes demon­strates how to save time and ef­fort on cut­ting out card by sim­u­lat­ing your own dig­i­tal bokeh shapes in­stead

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For­get cut­ting out card – make your own dig­i­tal bokeh shapes

Bokeh is de­fined in the Ox­fordEnglishDic­tionary as ‘the vis­ual qual­ity of the out-of-fo­cus ar­eas of a pho­to­graphic im­age, es­pe­cially as ren­dered by a par­tic­u­lar lens.’

The way the glass in the lens dis­perses light pro­duces dif­fer­ent blurred ar­eas, so too does the fo­cal length of a lens, but the main fac­tor de­ter­min­ing bokeh shape is the di­aphragm that forms the aper­ture.

Small blades con­verge to open up (f/2.8) or stop down (f/16) the aper­ture, and gen­er­ally the greater the num­ber of blades, the ‘creamier’ the qual­ity of the bokeh, as out-of-fo­cus high­lights take on the shape formed by the aper­ture open­ing. How­ever, by plac­ing a cut-out shape in front of your lens while shoot­ing wide open, these high­lights will in­stead take on the shape of the cut-out, lead­ing to all man­ner of cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties.

You can use screw-on ‘star­bright’ fil­ters, etched with fine lines, to cre­ate star-like glints on shiny sur­faces. Or you can craft a be­spoke shape out of black card to tape onto the lens. How­ever, we can fake any shape of bokeh we want with a dig­i­tal im­age as the back­drop. From stars to heart shapes, there’s noth­ing we can’t turn into bokeh – and if you add a black acrylic board you can get twice the bokeh in the re­flec­tion.

We can take this fur­ther and use real-life scenes be­hind toy an­i­mals, which then look as if they’ve been green-screened into lo­ca­tion. So let’s get started on our dig­i­tal bokeh project.

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