This week on Analogue Girl About Town, I thought I’d show you some of the nighttime bokeh photos I've taken of the LA skyline from some of the best spots in the city and write a tutorial on how to make homemade bokeh filters.
No one in my family loves the holidays more than I. I get all festive crazy, offering to wrap everybody’s presents, singing Christmas songs at the top of my lungs in the car, and even re-watching Love Actually and reruns of A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV. As soon as the holidays are over, my thoughts turn to the next one so I could do it all over again.
Pretty much anything that has to do with Christmas, I get excited about. So when I saw that festive article about bokeh shapes by hannah_brown just before Christmas, I was over the moon and has since been obsessing about them. And rightly so as they’re not only festive, they’re also obviously fun and just so damn adorable.
Christmas is long over (I cannot believe we have to wait an entire year!) but I’m still constantly thinking of different ways (check this and this out) to use this awesome technique. So, while I’m sure a number of tipsters (see here and here) on making bokeh shapes have already been published here, I thought I’d use my series to write my own little tipster and share how I make my bokeh filters with you wonderfully creative bunch. After all, this series is called ANALOGUE Girl About Town and homemade bokeh filters are as analogue as they get.
However, since this series is essentially about Los Angeles, I thought I’d show you first some of the nighttime bokeh photos I’ve taken of the LA skyline from some of the best spots in the city so that next time you’re in LA, you’ll know where to go for those scenic views!
And now that you’ve gotten a crash course on the best overlooks in Los Angeles, let’s get on with the tutorial.
We will, of course, need a few cheap materials for this project before we start:
- Black construction paper
- Pencil for tracing
- A film camera with a 50mm lens and a very large aperture (f/1.7, f/2, or f/2.8)
- Paper hole punches with different shapes (I’ve seen cupcake-, cake-, and rubber duck-shaped holes!), which you can get for less than $5 each at Arts and Crafting stores like Michael’s (one of the best places on earth!)
- A pair of scissors
- Any kind of tape that won’t leave a mess on our precious lenses
Now that we have everything we need, let’s get started.
- The first and most important thing you have to do for this project is to find out exactly how big you can make your filter hole. Remember that if you make it too big, it may not work.
- So, before you go crazy and buy all those cute paper punches (trust me, they are irresistible!) at the store, you need to calculate first the right diameter of the hole. Yes, calculate. Don’t worry. I won’t be giving you a complicated College Algebra equation.
Just take your lens, find out it’s largest aperture, and then divide its focal length with its largest aperture to get the right diameter (FOCAL LENGTH / LARGEST APERTURE = RIGHT DIAMETER). For example, I am using a 50mm lens and setting the aperture to 1.7 so the right diameter for my hole is 29.41.
50mm / 1.7 = 29.41
Easy enough right? Once you have your diameter, you can go ahead and buy your paper punches. Just make sure that the hole your paper punch makes fits into that diameter.
- Now get your construction paper and your lens. Turn your lens upside down so that its front is facing the paper and then carefully trace its shape with a pencil. When you’re done, draw 3 tabs on the outside of the circle. These tabs will later on help hold the filter in place when it’s attached to the lens. Cut the circle along with the tabs. This will now serve as your filter!
- It’s now time to make the filter hole. Using a ruler, find the filter’s center then punch a hole in it using your fancy paper punch! I am using a butterfly hole punch and a leaf hole punch for this project. What are you using? By the way, congratulations! You’ve just made your very own bokeh shape filter! Yay!
- Finally, slap that awesome filter onto your lens. To attach and secure it to your lens, tape it on the lens over those three tabs that you made earlier. If you’re using an SLR, you will immediately see those circular bokehs magically transform into whatever shape you chose!
So now, there’s nothing left to do but go out into the night and take your new filter out for a test drive! I’m sure you will have so much fun! I know I did!
All photographs by Michelle Rae. She lives, breathes, and haunts in the City of Angeles.