How to make Valentine's Day Heart Bokeh Overlays

Jan 28, 2020

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Love, hearts and sparkly bokeh are in the air! In this week’s article, I’m sharing steps for how to create your own Valentine’s Day heart bokeh overlays. It’s a fun and creative technique photographed separately then infused into your images by way of an overlay. Let's get creative and have some Valentine’s Day fun!

1. Preparation

Gather up your supplies! Here’s a list of what you’ll need to create your heart bokeh overlays.

  • Camera and lens hood
  • Black construction paper or card stock
  • Scissors
  • Heart-shaped hole punch (optional)
  • Tape
  • A string of fairy or Christmas tree lights (not LED)
  • A black backdrop (You can use a black trifold or a black blanket)
  • Photoshop

ISO 640 35mm f2.8, 1/200SS

2. Cut out your hearts

It's time to create your heart-shaped lens covers! Detach your lens hood from your lens (if it’s attached) and draw a circle on the black construction paper or cardstock. Cut out the circle you just outlined. Using your heart-shaped hole punch, create a heart in the middle of that circle. Alternately, you can fold the paper circle in half and cut out a heart shape with scissors.

Now, you need to tape the heart punched black circle over your lens. If you used the lens hood, the circle should be the same size as your lens. Tape around the outside of the circle, securing it to the outside of your lens. The black cutout should sit nicely, right on top, of your lens glass but not touch the glass itself.

ISO1250, 35mm, f1.8, 1/200SS

3. Prepare your backdrop

I recommend shooting for your heart-shaped bokeh overlays at night. This helps prevent blown-out bokeh and eliminates any texture in your black backdrop. You can drape a black cloth or blanket over a chair or the back of your sofa. I happen to have a black trifold handy in my home (for all those school science projects), so I use this. Hang your lights. You can experiment with your lights. Hang them any which way you want, as this will create different heart bokeh designs. 

ISO 800, 35mm, f2.2, 1/200SS

4. Capture bokeh

Now it’s time for the fun part! You can use any size focal length you wish to capture heart bokeh. It’s fun to experiment a bit. With your fairy or Christmas lights turned on, you'll be able to see the hearts through your viewfinder. I usually shoot with an aperture of about f2.8 to f4 and balance my other exposure triangle settings in a way that preserves my highlights, as I don't want blown out heart bokeh. When photographing heart bokeh, do not focus on the lights. To capture hearts, you'll want to turn your lens focal ring manually. You'll be able to capture varying sizes in heart bokeh by turning your focal ring, so be sure to experiment here! 

ISO 1000, 35mm, f3.2, 1/250SS

5. Create your overlay

Once you've captured hundreds of frames of heart bokeh…LOL! I know you will! It’s so addictive, and you won’t be able to stop playing! You’ll now want to upload your images to your computer. Pull your bokeh captures into Photoshop. Once your overlay is in Photoshop, you can open up any image you’d like to use with the overlay. By stacking the overlay on top of your image and changing the blend mode on the heart bokeh layer to screen mode, you’ll hide the black in the overlay, and the heart bokeh lights will shine through onto your image! Voila! Your image is now beautiful and sparkly and full of Valentine’s Day fun!

ISO 800, 35mm, f3.2, 1/200SS

I hope you enjoy being creative this year in all your Valentine's Day images! 

Have fun creating and enjoy a fun Valentine’s Day filled with love!