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Holiday Light Bokeh for iPhone or any Smartphone!

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'Tis the season for holiday lights and fun photos! And what better way to capture all those pretty lights than bokeh photography? In this Instructable, I will show you how to take bokeh photos with your iPhone or smartphone. There are apps that superimpose blurs, spots, and streaks, but our aim is to take authentic and beautifully blurred pictures on the go.

Before we begin, let's talk a little bit about the technique. Bokeh is the visually pleasing quality of an out-of-focus photo.The reason why our phones can't capture blurred lights with its built-in camera is because the lens is set to have a large depth-of-field. It tries to focus in on the entire scene, which is also why camera phones have a harder time focusing on subjects that are close-up. Since we can't narrow the depth-of-field by adjusting the aperture to a larger size (smaller f-stop), we have to bring the focal point to the foreground by some other means. In order to do this, we will need to use a macro lens. 
 

Disclaimer: I am in no way responsible for any damage that you may do to your device or yourself.
 
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Step 1: Materials List

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Materials:

-Cheap SLR Telephoto Lens
-Fishing Pliers
-Flathead Screwdriver
-Scissors
-Assortment of Precision Screwdrivers
-Locktite Fun-Tak (optional)
-Electrical Tape (optional)
-Phone Case (optional)

Step 2: Disassemble Lens

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After you have found the telephoto lens that you are willing to sacrifice (hopefully it's already broken), you will begin disassembling it. This is the hardest part of the entire procedure. You will be working with metal and glass, and if negligent, you could easily hurt yourself, so be careful. If you are unsure you can handle this, there are other ways of obtaining these lenses. You could just as easily purchase a macro lens for your phone online. A negative film magnifier would probably work for this project as well. I'm only suggesting to take apart a telephoto lens for a few reasons: 1.) You will be rewarded with a handful of various shaped lenses that are fun to mess around with. 2.) You get the satisfaction of successfully taking a complex mechanism apart, and 3.) you get to learn how it works. As you go along, just remember that you have to be smarter than the piece of metal or plastic you're working with. 

Follow the tips in the photographs for common things to look for as you disassemble your lens. Wear gloves if you can and use the fishing pliers to unthread things you can't get your fingers on.

Step 3: Find and Test Your Macro Lenses

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You should now have a bunch of lenses, some being biconvex. You can test each lens by placing it in front of your phone's camera. Try to focus on a small object, and set aside those that magnify while noting which one gives you the best clarity.

Step 4: Try Combining Lenses

Because we now have a handful of lenses, we can experiment and learn a few things about optics. Try combining lenses in different combinations to see what types of results you get. As you can see in these pictures, I've somewhat made a telephoto and a wide angle lens. Luckily, the two lenses worked by placing them back to back. I used electrical tape as a way to join these two together.

Step 5: The Bokeh Effect

Now go ahead and set up a room where candle lights or Christmas lights are the most prominent light source. Grab the macro lenses you had set aside and test each one by holding it in front of your phone. Whichever one gives you the least magnification with satisfactory blur is the lens that will probably work best. Picking the one with the least magnification will allow you to focus on larger objects while still achieving beautiful unfocused spots of light in the background. When you're happy with your results, you can choose how you want to attach your lens to your phone.

Step 6: Attach the Lens to the Phone

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Now this last part is completely up to you. I have suggested in a related Instructable that Loctite removable Fun-Tak is a feasible way to adhere a lens to a phone, however I am not fond of it. The agent does not set up and allows for quick removal and application of the lens, but if some of the putty gets in the nooks and crannies of your phone, you may not be able to get it out. If you use it, don't use a lot. A better option for mounting the lens would be your own personalized method. I have slipped smaller lenses under the rubber of my Otterbox case and that worked well. Another member had suggested having a standalone case that you adhere the lens to. Perhaps you could use a rear shell case and attach it to that, which would make removing and attaching a breeze. Any easy and cheap ideas are also welcome.

(Special mention to Instructables member Messy Desk for case suggestion and inspiring this project)

I hope that this was helpful. I'm entering this step-by-step into the Instructuable Photography Contest along with another macro lens Instructable I had authored. Any votes my way would be deeply appreciated.

Happy Holiday Photos and Be Safe. 

DemetriS
ncheriyan8 months ago

hey ! can u tell me which all lens you used for making the telephoto lens? and the arrangement?

please tell me ! my mail id is sayhitonoel123@gmail.com

Hokey is one of my favorite camera effect.
Take a small piece of black construction paper and cut a small hole in a particular shape, e.g., music note, star, crescent moon, and cover the lens with the paper with the shape right over the center of the lens. If done properly, the bokeh effect should take on the shape you cut in the paper, i.e., the circular effect of all the Christmas lights in this picture would be in the shape you cut out. At scrapbook supply stores you can find hole punches in various shapes.
clazman2 years ago
After reading the comments I realize I am really outdated! The digital age is here
DemetriS (author)  clazman2 years ago
Thanks for the commendation. I took a look at your instructable, and I would venture to guess you're a retired machinist like my father. I'll be sure to show him your post. I much prefer carpentry, but I hope to learn the trade from him at some point.
Thanks for the nice reply. No, I'm not a machinist. I am a retired mechanical engineer. Over the years I have worked closely with a number of machinists and respect that trade immensely. Give your father my regards.
clazman2 years ago
Where have I been?????!?!

Now we have a term for a photograph that blurs the the background via the f-stop (for film cameras, that is)?

Still, after my raving 'cause it's dating me, I hereby commend you on this project.
bsteines2 years ago
Seems like anyone interested in this topic might also be interested in these:
http://cheezburger.com/6847687168
http://www.diyphotography.net/diy_create_your_own_bokeh
thaiwest2 years ago
It ought to possible to us Sugru [ http://sugru.com ] to form a lens holder and a 'slip attachment' that would simple slip over the corner of the iPhone or iPad. Then it would only be a matter of creating a case to carry & protect the len(s). Have fun!
Conas2 years ago
very nice, I love bokeh + Christmas lights. I wonder if there is an app that would do this (though it would be digital manipulation, inferior to what you've done). I'll have to go look for an old lens now. Thanks
DemetriS (author)  Conas2 years ago
Thank you for your kind words! Yeah, there are apps available that will either recognize the light in your photo and manipulate it with a special blur or will merely superimpose the spots onto the image.
Messy Desk2 years ago
This is great, thank you! I'm glad my question inspired you to create this instructable! Now I just need to find a broken telephoto lens lol!