Bokeh Shapes

So you know bokeh – the circle, hexagon, octogon, etc. shape your camera lens makes out of blurred light? Have you ever seen photos people have taken with various bokeh spots in shapes other than a circle?

Well, that circle of blurred light comes from the shape of your camera’s aperture. Change the shape of the hole light flows through into your lens, and you change the shape of your bokeh.

While you can buy pre-cut kits to start experimenting with this concept:

In this post I’m going to show you a super simple way to make your own.

You’ll need:

  • cardstock paper – preferably black (in this post I use dark blue – as long as your paper is thick enough where light won’t flow through you should be fine)
  • scissors
  • a DSLR camera and lens
  • a lens cap (if you have one, this is helpful for tracing)
  • an exacto knife or box cutter
  • various hole punch shapes (OPTIONAL)
  • a writing instrument
  • scissors
  • tape (OPTIONAL)\

Here I’m using a Canon EOS Rebel T1i with a 100mm 2.8 USM EF lens.

Pardon the dust
Pardon the dust

The idea is to cut circles of paper that cover the entire lens and fit snugly where the lens cap usually clips in.

  1. Trace the widest part of your lens cap onto a piece of carstock.


2. Cut out the circle with scissors and fit it to you camera lens. You may have to trim the edges here and there to get it to fit correctly.


3. Once you have a circle that fits snugly on your lens, trace that circle over and over until you have one for each shape you intend to make. Here I’ve traced the circle 4 times for a total of 5 shapes.


4. Cut out those circles.


5. Draw the shape you’d like for you bokeh to be in the center of each circle. Start with a very small shape, experiment with your camera, then decide whether or not you’d like to cut the shape bigger.


6. Use an xacto knife of box cutter to carefully cut out the shapes. My xacto blade is pretty dull at the moment, so while the edges are rough, it still did the trick.


7. Alternatively, use a shaped hole punch to create your desired shape. Most hole punches aren’t quite long enough to reach the center of the paper circle, so this required me to fold up my circle a bit. This makes the paper less durable and may require some extra care when attaching to your lens.


8. Fit the paper to your lens.


9. If you’re having trouble getting the paper to stay attached to your lens, you can gently apply tape on the outside of the paper circle and onto the edge of your lens. Be careful not to get tape on the glass part of your lens. You can also create more of a lens hood as shown in this tutorial.

10. Try out each of your new creative apertures and see what works and what doesn’t.

More blur creates bigger bokeh shapes:PicMonkey Collage

Compare f2.8 in the 1st 3 images with varying amounts of blur to f8 in the last image. Wider aperture, smaller depth of field, makes the cut shape more clear.PicMonkey Collage2

Try out different locations. Christmas tree lights v. Christmas and outdoor lamp lights.

PicMonkey Collage3

IMG_1122 IMG_1123

Let me know if you try this out. I’d love to see your results.

Leave your questions and comments below :)


15 thoughts on “Bokeh Shapes

Add yours

  1. Really good piece on creating Bokeh – Tried this with a coffee cup and some fairy lights, during my photo sessions at BASIC in Salford, England. I like the maple leaf effect.

  2. I love bokeh and I’ve done this process before, it’s a lot of fun! I love the different things you can do with it :) Also, for those who only have a smartphone, there are SO many free apps out there that you can use to enhance your photos. One of the ones I use is called “BokehFeel” Thanks for sharing Jennifer

  3. I meant to ask you about bokeh on you post yesterday but all hell broke loose in my office. (that’s what I get for reading your posts on ,y lunch hour.) So glad you posted an explanation! I don’t have a dslr anymore but I’m going to try it with my smartphone over the weekend and see what comes of it. :) If I get anything worthwhile I will let you know! Thanks for explaining the concept.

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: