This music video for the song “Solidified” by Gramatik features an interesting technique: custom bokeh shapes that move. We’ve featured creative bokeh techniques in the past, but they’ve all focused on floating words or static shapes. Director Brad Hasse went a step further by having his monster silhouettes in the out-of-focus light points move around and sing along. The technique involves placing tiny monster cutouts directly in front of fast lenses that are racked out of focus.
Having some dust or smudges on your lens’ front element generally doesn’t have a noticeable effect on your image quality, but photo enthusiast Alex Bowler recently discovered that having a dirty front element can do nasty things to bokeh. The before-and-after comparison above shows what Bowler’s out-of-focus areas looked like before and after cleaning his lens.
Image credits: Photographs by Alex Bowler and used with permission
Photo enthusiast Mike Gerdau wanted to play around with bokeh shapes but didn’t want to create a separate “lens cap” for each shape. His solution was to separate the shapes from the cap itself, cutting the shapes into 45x45mm squares that swap in and out of the cap easily. The “slides” can be neatly stored away inside a white plastic Game Boy cartridge case when not in use.
For Valentine’s Day this year, Samsung created this short film that features custom bokeh shapes shot with Samsung NX gear. They come up with some pretty creative ideas for various shapes: pop a balloon filled with glitter to create a firework look, or shoot out of a car window at night to capture spaceships flying through space! If you’re interested in learning how to customize your own bokeh, check out this video tutorial or the tutorial Samsung published alongside this video.
The photographs in Nadav Bagim‘s project “WonderLand” might look like paintings or computer generated images, but they’re actually real photographs captured at home using ordinary objects and creative artificial lighting. His tools and props include things like vegetables, plastic bags, flowers, and leaves, and he captures the images using a Canon 60D and 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. Getting his “subjects” into the positions and poses he wants requires countless hours of patient encouraging. Read more…
You probably know that stopping down (i.e. increasing your f-stop number) can increase the sharpness of your subject, but how much should you stop down to boost resolution without losing that nice, creamy bokeh? Roger Cicala did some research on this question and writes:
For those lenses that do benefit, stopping down just to f/2.0 provides the majority of resolution improvement. The difference between wide open and f/2.0 is generally much greater than the difference between f/2.0 and the maximum resolution.
Getting the edges and corners sharp requires stopping down to at least f/4 for most wide-aperture primes, and some really need f/5.6. Stopping down to f/2.8 may maximize center sharpness but often makes only a slight difference in the corners, at least on a full-frame camera.
None of the lenses performed any better after f/5.6 (for the center) or f/8 for the corners. Most were clearly getting softer at f/11.
If you’re using a wide-aperture lens, stopping down to just f/2.0 will reap big gains in sharpness while still keeping the depth-of-field narrow. Furthermore, for some lenses you don’t really even need to worry about stopping down for sharpness, since it hasn’t a relatively negligible effect on the outcome.
Claus Thiim captured this beautiful image of fireworks showing both in-focus and out-of-focus burst of light. The trick is to capture most of the photograph while focused on the fireworks, and then throw the lens out of focus shortly before the shutter closes.
On a slightly related note, check out this crazy video of an entire fireworks display released in just one minute (something went wrong).
Here’s another video tutorial teaching how to give your bokeh custom shapes.
When a point of light in a photograph is out of focus, it turns into a shape defined by the lens’s aperture. We can create a second, smaller, aperture to attach to the front of our lens in order to customize that shape. The result is a charming effect in the background of your photographs, as long as there points of light such as streetlights, candles, or Christmas lights in frame. [#]
You can also find a text version of this tutorial here.
Kaleb Wentzel-Fisher had the brilliant idea of using custom bokeh to spell out words in his videos, and spent a good amount of time developing and perfecting the idea. The above video, titled “Light Works”, is a demonstration of this technique in action. The results are pretty awesome. Read more…