Heart Shaped Bokeh for Valentine's Day

Peggy Farren 2014-02-11

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you’re looking for something unique and memorable to do for your Valentine’s-Day-themed photos, give this activity a shot. Today we’re going to play with bokeh—blurred lights that will create a really cool effect for your pictures. And if that isn't awesome enough, we’re going to change the usual circles into hearts.

So here are the steps we’re going to do to create the Valentine’s Day heart bokeh effect.

You will need :

  • Sheets of Paper
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Camera/Lens with a low F-stop (between 1.2 and 2.8 is best)
  • A tripod

Start out by creating a cylinder the size to fit around your lens. Set the lens down on its side, lining up the top of the lens with the edge of the paper, mark where it ends and roll the paper around it until the paper creates a full cylinder. Cut out the strip of paper and tape the sides together to create a hood.


Now trace your lens on the other sheep of paper to make a circle. Here’s where you customize the bokeh by adding the heart. I folded the circle in half and cut the half heart because of my inability to cut shapes, but whatever way you find easiest, go for it!



Next, tape the circle you just made to the hood and slide in on your lens.


(I messed up a little while tracing the heart, so ignore that weird line!)

You want your depth of field to be as shallow as possible, so bring your F stop as low as it goes! F1.8 is ideal, but if your camera does not go down that far you’ll have to work with what you've got. The lower you can get the better. Due to the extreme lighting created by your low F stop you’ll have to compensate with your ISO and shutter speed (use your camera’s meter!)

The closer you are to your subject the more the bokeh will become bigger and blurrier.



Now that you have your camera all set up, you need to figure out a light source. I found that Christmas lights are ideal for bokeh photos. The more lights on the string the more hearts you will get in your photo. But if you don’t have Christmas lights, going outside and using street lights is another way to create the image.


While I was doing this, I found it’s a lot of trial and error at first, especially if you are working with a lens that doesn't have a wide F-stop. So just keep trying!


And there you have it! Cute, heart shaped bokeh for your Valentine’s Day photography pleasures.

Jesica Glas is a photography student and intern at Understand Photography Training Center.

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