Once you’ve used my tutorial to make yourself a handy bokeh modifier, it’s time to start shooting. All you have to do to get started is cover the lens with the modifier, position your subject in front of some twinkly lights, focus and shoot. Here’s some tips to start your experimentation.

Go manual

First of all, you’ll probably have to focus manually. Your lens will be able to “see” through the hole you’ve cut, but may not be able to autofocus.

Expect to see some serious vignetting too, especially on full-frame cameras.

Create the space

For lights behind your subject, the more the better. Think big Christmas trees, city lights or a decorated street. You want a big gap between your subject and the lights. Make sure you’re much closer to your subject than they are to the lights behind them.

Experiment with putting the lights between you and your subject. This helps exaggerate the bokeh if you are working with a shorter focal length, or a higher f-stop. You’ll want the lights to be super close to your lens (like 5-10 cm away).

A crop sensor camera will effectively increase your focal length (boosting the bokeh effect), but it also increases the effect of the f-stop (which counters the effect). The longer your lens is and the wider the aperture is, the better!

Consider adding a flash

In dark settings, adding an on-camera flash (bounced off the ceiling) will help illuminate your subject. Turn the ISO up to capture the glow. Embrace the noise and focus issues: These photos aren’t meant to be tack-sharp!

I’d love to see what you create with your DIY bokeh modifier! Let me know in the comments below if you have any crafting breakthroughs of how to get the most out of your shaped bokeh photography. Enjoy your festive-shaped bokeh!