How To Create Your Own Custom Bokeh Effects

When it comes to photography, bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of the blur in areas that are out of focus. The term bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke, which means blur or haze. Certain lenses, such as large aperture lenses, macro lenses and long telephoto lenses rely on a good bokeh because of their shallow depth of field. Depth of field refers to the part of the picture that is very sharp.

Without the use of custom bokeh effects, your camera may not produce a good blur. Often, the out of focus areas produced by digital cameras will be circles with sharp edges. Ideally, with good bokeh, there would be no circles. Instead, all of the out of focus areas would be blurred. You want to have the out of focus areas blurred, because that will direct more attention to the main subject of the photo. By using custom bokeh effects, you can achieve the blurred look, while still giving the blur a defined shape.

Materials Needed

To create your own custom bokeh effects, you will need a couple of items. The first thing you will need is a large aperture lens. A large aperture lens is also known as a fast lens. As the diameter of the aperture increases in size, so does the amount of light that the lens will let in. Lenses that have large apertures also allow you to use faster shutter speeds, which will go a long way in getting the right bokeh in your pictures. You will also need a single sheet of black paperboard.

Black Paperboard

In order to create your own custom bokeh effects, you will need to cut the black paperboard so that you have a circle that snuggly fits over the lens. You will also need to cut a shape into the middle of the black paperboard circle. What shape you use depends on what you want your custom bokeh effect to look like. The size of the shape you cut is totally up to you. You can start off with a small shape and then look through the viewfinder or LCD display of your digital camera. If you like what you see, stick with the size of the shape you have. If not, you can increase the size of the shape, either by hand or by using a puncher.


Once you have the black paperboard secured onto the camera lens and you have cut a shape into the black paperboard that you are happy with, you will need to change the aperture settings on your digital camera. For your custom bokeh effect to look right, you will want to use the lowest aperture value available on your digital camera.  The goal is to have your aperture completely open. By having your aperture completely open, more light will be able to make its way into your camera lens. Generally, the bigger the aperture, the smoother your bokeh will be.

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