Wait! Don’t take down your Christmas tree yet! I know Christmas is over, but this is prime time for taking fun bokeh shots using the lights on your tree.
Not sure what bokeh is? Technically it’s the area of the photo outside the point of focus but most of the time it refers to anything blurry in a photo. Around this time of year it frequently refers to the circles of light you get from twinkle lights in the background of your shot.
Interested? Let me give you a few basic tips before you grab your camera. (No DSLR? See below.)
1. Get out of automatic mode.
2. You need a large aperture to let in lots of light, so set your f-stop to the lowest number your lens allows. Ideally this in the 1.something range, but higher can still work well. Try aperture priority mode which will build the image exposure around your selected aperture.
3. You need a shallow depth-of-field. This means that you want there to be a large distance between the subject that you are focusing on and the light source behind it. Also, get your camera as close as possible to the subject.
4. Practice. Different things will work in different situations. Sometimes you might need to use manual focus. Sometimes you may need a light source in front of the subject (behind your camera, not the flash) to adequately light the subject and other times the light from the background may be enough. Conditions and lighting are different outside than inside and differ between night and day to interesting effect.
If you like the shaped-bokeh, like the stars and hearts that I have in a couple photos, it’s possible with nothing more than black paper and a decorative punch. I did a tutorial almost a year ago on creating easy shaped-bokeh filters and I’ll tell you, it’s really easy, go here to learn how.
If you don’t own a DSLR camera and still want to try this technique, it is still possible. You can achieve good bokeh effects with a point-and-shoot, especially if it has a manual mode. However, since I don’t have any experience doing this, I’m going to send you to Robert Donovan’s excellent tutorial on pocket camera bokeh.
Happy photographing and if you take some bokeh shots, I want to see them!