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UPDATE: I created a more in-depth class on this subject because so many people had questions about this effect. Take the course here:

I’ve seen this effect used in some wedding photographer’s images with the heart shaped bokeh (blur) is in the background so I did a little investigating into how this effect is accomplished.

You can watch a video tutorial on how I did this above, or buy a premade kit by clicking HERE.

This little knife is key because the designs have to be very small and (can be) intricate:

Or you can buy a kit from B and H, click the photo above.

Here are the steps to take pictures like this:

  1. Watch the video tutorial I made
  2. Find a light source(s) that are bright and contrasty to what’s around it: christmas lights, candles, street lights, etc.
  3. Put that thing you made on your fast lens and set it to the widest aperture you have (and aperture priority), my Canon 28mm goes to f/1.8
  4. If you don’t have a really fast lens, try and get as far away from the light source(s) as possible
  5. Experiment with distance to the camera and the focus distance you use on your lens to focus (the light source must be way out of focus)
  6. Don’t get discouraged! My first photo, as you can see in my video, sucked, keep experimenting with it to get best results, if you’re still having trouble contact me

The limitation of taking pictures of things with this on your camera is that since your camera is set to it’s closest focus distance, your subjet will have to be very close to the camera, unless the light source is very far away (experiment!).

You can also take images of just these blurry background lights and composite them into other images using Photoshop:

  1. Open the two images you want to combine, in this case, one will have just the custom bokeh shapes and the other is your main subject.
  2. Put the bokeh layer on top.
  3. Change it’s blending mode from ‘Normal’ to ‘Screen’ (this is assuming you’re using a bokeh image with a black background like the ones I provide below – click them to enlarge, then right-click, choose “Save Image As…”)
  4. Now all you should see are the custom bokeh shapes
  5. Add a layer mask to the bokeh layer and use a black brush to paint away where the bokeh is covering your foreground subject (the other image you opened that is the layer below this one)

DOWNLOAD and try the above directions: