If you use a Lensbaby and have the “Creative Aperture” set then you might find this technique fun, especially during the holidays when there is a plethora of lights all around. The photo above was not manipulated in Photoshop (other than basic color/tone adjustments) – it’s a long exposure photographed with a Lensbaby. Heres’s how to achieve a similar effect:

  • You will need an SLR camera, Lensbaby*, and the Creative Aperture Kit
  • Find a scene that has a lot of lights and requires a long-exposure (several seconds)
  • With your Lensbaby, use a creative aperture, such as the heart or star (or make your own!)
  • Once you have your focusing and proper exposure time set on your image, start your exposure and about half-way to two-thirds through the exposure defocus your lens. You might need to try defocusing at different times to get a good overall look to the image (it does require some trial-and-error).

The end result should give you a normal scene with large bokeh shapes where the lights are from whatever shaped aperture you had in your lens.

*It might be possible to create the same effect by using a non-Lensbaby lens and a DIY bokeh shape. I’ve never tried it before, but theoretically it should work the same way. (If you want to give it a shot with a DIY, please let me know how it turns out!)

If you use a Lensbaby and have the “Creative Aperture” set then you might find this technique fun, especially during the holidays when there is a plethora of lights all around. The photo above was not manipulated in Photoshop (other than basic color/tone adjustments) – it’s a long exposure photographed with a Lensbaby. Heres’s how to achieve a similar effect:

  • You will need an SLR camera, Lensbaby*, and the Creative Aperture Kit
  • Find a scene that has a lot of lights and requires a long-exposure (several seconds)
  • With your Lensbaby, use a creative aperture, such as the heart or star (or make your own!)
  • Once you have your focusing and proper exposure time set on your image, start your exposure and about half-way to two-thirds through the exposure defocus your lens. You might need to try defocusing at different times to get a good overall look to the image (it does require some trial-and-error).

The end result should give you a normal scene with large bokeh shapes where the lights are from whatever shaped aperture you had in your lens.

*It might be possible to create the same effect by using a non-Lensbaby lens and a DIY bokeh shape. I’ve never tried it before, but theoretically it should work the same way. (If you want to give it a shot with a DIY, please let me know how it turns out!)

Nicole S. Young is a photographer, published author, and educator specializing in Lightroom, Photoshop, and photography. She is best known for her books on food photography but is widely versed in various photographic genres, including landscape, nature, stock, travel, and lifestyle.

11 Comments

  1. Garrett Gibbons December 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    This effect is a lot of fun! I saw it first in Speed Racer (the movie), when they had some subtle heart-shaped bokeh in the background of a love scene. You used it well, here!

  2. Katherine December 21, 2009 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Can you make your own creative aperture to use with the original lensbaby? I guess the long exposure wouldn’t work unless your hands were extremely steady.

  3. Angie December 21, 2009 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Katherine, I’ve got the original lensbaby and I’ve made my own out of card. Little craft punches work perfectly, so there’s so many options for what you use as your aperture.

  4. Nicole December 21, 2009 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    @Katherine – I’ve never used the original Lensbaby … yes, it would probably be difficult with a long exposure, but still possible! :)

  5. Sam Pardue December 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Very cool use of the Lensbaby Creative Apertures. Lovely image for the holiday season!

  6. Tom England December 24, 2009 at 6:14 am - Reply

    That’s really cool. I’m going to have to buy that kit now :)

  7. shoeless_LIndaB May 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Pretty cool… is that the London Bridge at Lake Havasu?

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