When it comes to Christmas tree photos, capturing blurred Christmas tree lights in the background is probably the prettiest background you can achieve. The blurred background in a photo is called Bokeh. In this post I am sharing how to capture the best Christmas light Bokeh (i.e. blurred Christmas lights) in your photos.
Settings: ISO 1600, f/2.0, 1/125
How to capture Christmas light Bokeh:
The Right Lens
First you need the right lens. Typically the nifty 50 lens is the first lens new camera owners buy after they learn to work their camera body. This is for several reasons. 1) It’s probably the cheapest upgrade with the largest reward. Meaning it’s a cheap lens, but it makes your photos 10x better! 2) The low aperture allows you to do cool things like blur your background and capture that Christmas light Bokeh!
Bottom line, you need to use a lens that has low aperture capabilities. The nifty 50 lens is great because it gets you all the way down to f/1.8. I, however, was using my 35mm lens, which only gets down to 2.0.
With that being said, when choosing your camera settings, you need to go with the lowest possible aperture your camera can achieve. My camera was set on f/2.0 for all the photos in this post EXCEPT the one below. The aperture, or f stop, was only set on f/3.2 which caused the blurry lights to be much smaller and less dramatic.
Settings: ISO 1600, 1/160, f/3.2
Since you are on the lowest aperture setting possible, if you keep your camera on auto selection, you may ruin the photo by accidentally focusing on the wrong detail. If the camera selects the tip of the nose to focus on, the eyes might be out of focus. If the camera selects the foot of your sitting toddler to focus on, the whole face could be out of focus.
Instead switch to selective focus so that you control the focus point. Then make sure to focus on your subject’s eyes.
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The Ideal Positioning
Finally, you need the ideal positioning. You want to be pretty close to your subject (it depends on your lens and how much of your subject you want in the photo), and you want your subjects pretty far forward of the tree! The further forward you are of the tree, the more blurry you can get those Christmas lights and achieve the perfect Christmas light bokeh!
Subject far from the tree + Camera close to the subject = Blurry Christmas light bokeh!
In the photo below, Betty was only sitting a few feet forward of the tree. I didn’t get super close to her because I wanted to capture the way she was sitting too (I love when they use their little straight legs as a table!…) Anyway, while I was able to get blurry lights, it wasn’t too over dramatic.
Settings: ISO 1600, 1/160, f/2.0
Now in the next photo (below) with Anabelle, we moved back and were about 10 or more feet away from the tree. I was so close to her face, and she wasn’t giving me much of an expression, that I asked her to turn away from me. I captured her looking at the tree and I got as close as I could to her!
Settings: ISO 1600, f/2.0, 1/160
Shoot in RAW
And finally, the most common problem I have when taking photos in the dark or indoors is noise. I can quiet my noise and eliminate the grain best when I have my photos in the RAW format.
Settings: ISO 800, f/2.0, 1/160