DIY: The Mickey Maker


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:

Mickey Maker Mark I
Mickey Maker Mark I (MMMI)

I liked the MMMI, it made some pretty decent photographs last year, here’s a set of the test photos as an example:

MMMI Test Images
MMMI Test Images

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:

I rounded up some hole punches, a 43mm lens hood (really, the EOS M uses a tiny lens), and some black card stock. All of these came from Amazon.
The 43mm lens hood.
Black card stock. Construction paper would likely work just as well.
My attempt at making a Mickey Mouse head out of circular hole punches. Mickey’s head:ear ratio is 5:3 if you attempt to do this. I will note that I lost patience after five tries, because I knew I’d likely be using my 6D more for this and have a better solution for that camera.
Line up your filter so it’s in the center of the hood, and trace a circle.
Mark the spot that’s at the top center when your hood is mounted, so that you can align Mickey properly.
Mount the Mickey Maker on the hood, using the mark to align it properly. I used gaff tape here, but any sort of tape would work.
The Mickey Maker is mounted, facing the proper direction!

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:

This image shows you how you can control the size of the shaped bokeh.
This image illustrates common issues when you use your Mickey Maker.

Here are slightly different directions, for use with a camera that is probably more familiar, the Canon 6D:

Grab a UV filter – you have one of those, right? If not, get thee to the store! – and size out a square of card stock that will cover it completely.
Trace the filter to establish the boundaries for the next step…
Punch a hole in the center of the card stock circle. This is why you traced the UV filter in the previous step.
You should have this – it may take a couple of tries to get it just right!
Cut out on the circle you drew – you should cut a tiny bit on the inside, so the resultant Mickey cutout is slightly smaller than the UV filter.
Put your cutout into the front of your lens. This is a 50mm f/1.4 lens.
Screw the UV filter in atop the Mickey cutout, so that it’s held securely in place.
Another view of the completed Mickey Maker Mark II.
I thought that maybe Walt Disney World could use some snow… so I did the same thing with a different punch.
Same rules as before – center the punch.
Trim it to a circle.
Test fit your cut out.
Ready to go!
Ready to go!

Here are some sample shots from the 6D, with explanations of what you’re seeing in each picture:

How shifting focus will change the size of the shaped bokeh.
Easy mistakes to make!

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):

  1. Mickey paper punch
  2. Snowflake paper punch
  3. Paper
  4. 1/16 inch circular paper punch
  5. 1/8 inch circular paper punch
  6. 1/4 inch circular paper punch
  7. 43mm STM lens hood
  8. 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.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Joey says:

    Great post. Very informational and easy to follow!

  2. Lois says:

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind but I linked to this in one of my posts. I thought it was brilliantly explained and the pictures are lovely!

    1. Thanks for linking! May I ask where? I’d love to read what you’re writing about.

      1. Lois says:

        It was a post about tips for photography on a budget in the ‘miscellaneous cool stuff’ section! the full post is at :)

      2. Awesome. Thanks again :)

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