Today’s blog post takes a different turn than my usual picture posts: in today’s post, I teach you how to make something cool for your camera and have a little fun this holiday season. Check out the steps below to create your very own Mickey Maker!
Also, make sure to come back on Christmas Day to see the types of pictures @MouseontheMind and I were able to capture using the Mickey Maker!
Last year, after visiting the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios, I ran across this article, and decided to try my hand at some shaped bokeh. I, of course, knew the only shape acceptable to me would be a Mickey Mouse head. I grabbed Mickey Mouse and snowflake paper punches from Amazon and went to work making these:
I liked the MMMI, it made some pretty decent photographs last year, here’s a set of the test photos as an example:
I had a few issues with the design, however. First off, it was a pain to transport them in my camera bag without getting crushed. They were, after all, card stock tubes held together with my shoddy tape job. More importantly, they were very hard to use: they covered the focus rings on my lenses, thereby making it difficult to take the images out of focus to make the desired shaped bokeh. The third issue, and really very specific to Disney, is that the exposed paper on the MMMI filters really didn’t hold up too well to Disney “snow.”
I stared at my camera gear sitting on my shelf and came up with a solution: use filters and hoods already designed for the cameras! Here’s how that went, first with the EOS M and then with the 6D:
Congrats! You’ve got your very own Mickey Maker! Down below, I explain how to use your new toy. Here are some sample shots from the EOS M, with explanations of what you’re seeing in each picture:
Here are slightly different directions, for use with a camera that is probably more familiar, the Canon 6D:
Here are some sample shots from the 6D, with explanations of what you’re seeing in each picture:
So, you’ve got a Mickey Maker all made and ready to go. How the heck do you use the thing? Well, you have to do two things: 1. open your aperture, and 2. make lights blurry. If you’re reading this and wondering 1. huh? and 2. what? don’t panic!
1. Open your aperture – you have to get your aperture wide open to get the bokeh to form, and thereby the bokeh to turn into wonderful shapes. Put your camera into aperture-priority or manual mode and crank that number down to the lowest it’ll go… f/1.4, f/1.8 and f/2 are all aperture settings with which I’ve found success. I feel you could probably get shaped bokeh up in the f/2.2 and f/2.8 ranges, but I’d have my doubts beyond that.
2. Get those lights blurry! There are a few different ways to do this:
- Focus on something near you with pinpoints of light in the distant background. For example: Have a loved one (or a tolerated one? an estranged former friend?) stand in front of your Christmas tree (or, honestly, a fully-lit menorah would do quite nicely as well), and focus on them. The further behind your subject the pinpoints of lights are, the larger they’ll be… and the more likely they will be to form shaped bokeh.
- Switch your camera to manual focus and deliberately knock it way out of focus when aiming it at pinpoint light sources such as Christmas lights or a bunch of candles.
- Leave your camera in auto-focus mode and lock focus on something nearby, then aim at pinpoint light sources. This is a good option for cameras that won’t allow you to use manual focus.
Seriously, that’s it. Check back here on Christmas for many pictures I’ve taken with the Mickey Maker in the past few weeks.
Here are links to what I used to make my Mickey Maker (buying from these links does not increase the price for you, but does help support this site):
- Mickey paper punch
- Snowflake paper punch
- 1/16 inch circular paper punch
- 1/8 inch circular paper punch
- 1/4 inch circular paper punch
- 43mm STM lens hood
- 58mm UV filter
Have fun, and if you make any cool pics from the instructions in this post, please tweet with the hash tag #MickeyMaker so that I can share them with all of my followers!
A huge thanks to @ClintSSmith for linking me to the original shaped bokeh article last year, and to Clint and his wife @Kate_Shouts for letting me use their house, their dining room table, their tree, and their dog to create this post.