A Bokeh of Hearts for Valentines

Hearts aplenty, Valentines. LOVE is in the air!

Special Hearts for Valentines
Special Hearts for Valentines

I can’t believe how much fun I had with this project, making custom bokeh lights – hearts just in time for Valentines.

How do you make custom bokeh hearts?

You need 3 things to make bokeh hearts appear in your photographs.

1. Point sources of light that stand out from the environment

Curious Helper and a String of Christmas Lights
Curious Helper and a String of Christmas Lights

A string of Christmas lights creates colorful point sources of light. Yes, I have a curious kitty helping me!

2. Bokeh filter with cut out heart shape

Handmade Bokeh Filter
Handmade Bokeh Filter

Bokeh filter attaches to front of camera lens to block incoming light except where the desired shape (heart) is cut out. Handmade with paper, cardboard, tape, razor blade, scissors.

Attach the filter to the camera lens, but don’t use duct tape or any other tape if at all possible. Be nice to your lenses!

Handmade Filter Attached to Camera Lens
Handmade Filter Attached to Camera Lens

One thing I didn’t like about the cardboard cut-out was the amount of dust it created. So much dust, in fact, that it produced artifacts on the images. Depending on what you’re going for this may not be a problem. Commercial cutouts are available, but that’s not as much fun, is it?

3. Camera with lens capable of a wide aperture with an f-stop lower than f/3.5

Bokeh Lights In Heart
Bokeh Lights In Heart

Camera: Canon Rebel EOS 4Ti/650D
Lens: EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II

With the kit lens for my Rebel camera the lowest f-stop was not low enough to produce the desired effect and instead we got some bokeh lights inside a heart shape with the rest of the frame blackened.

Switching to a macro lens worked, so we really do need a low f-stop!

Bokeh Hearts Appeared with Macro Lens
Bokeh Hearts Appeared with Macro Lens

Same camera with EF100mm f/2.8 USM Macro lens produced the blurred light effect.

Best Settings:
Manual focus
Shutter speed 1/60sec
ISO 400
Aperture f/2.8

Tips for getting the custom bokeh lights to appear:

  • Low light levels behind subject/lights helps.
  • If f/# not low enough will see the cutout shape in the image.
  • May have to move around to get full shape for each light in the image.
  • Zoom in to get rid of background and to darken it.

Found a cool article on a do-it-yourself custom bokeh technique by Kent DuFault on Photzy.com that inspired this post and a TON of little heart pics.

The color addition/subtraction effect where bokeh lights overlap was very interesting. Some images showed a three-dimensional effect and some shadowing.

My best images are posted here in miniature – I think they’d make a nice mini-collection for greeting cards:

Bokeh Hearts 1
Bokeh Hearts 1
Bokeh Hearts 2
Bokeh Hearts 2
Bokeh Hearts 3
Bokeh Hearts 3
Bokeh Hearts 4
Bokeh Hearts 4

The full-size versions have been posted on FineArtAmerica.com:
Art Prints
Sell Art Online
Sell Art Online
Art Prints

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