Holiday Bokeh Photography: 3 Easy Techniques
Want holiday photos as magical as your holiday memories? This year, take some holiday bokeh photos. Bokeh is a photography term that refers to intentional blur in parts of a photo, such as when the background is blurred while the subject is in focus. When combined with holiday settings, especially lights, bokeh becomes especially pretty - bright dots of color or light turn an ordinary snapshot into a gorgeous photo. If you have a dSLR, taking a photo with holiday bokeh is actually pretty simple. Keep reading for three ways to get that beautiful blur.
1. Get out of focus. This technique (used on the photos above and below) is extremely easy and works perfectly for photos of Christmas trees or other holiday lights.
To get this photo: Take this photo at night with all lights off except those on the Christmas tree. Find the switch on your lens that toggles between AF (auto focus) and MF (manual focus) and flip it to MF. Then start turning the focus ring either to the right or the left, watching the Christmas tree lights blur out of focus (your focus ring is likely a little further down on your lens than the ring you use to zoom in or out). Take a couple of photos with the focus ring in different positions so you can choose the amount of blur you like best. (For more example photos, see this post.)
2. Use your flash. You've probably been told that you should avoid using your on-camera flash whenever possible, but this is one exception. If you're outside at night and it's snowing, the flash will reflect off the snow, creating really beautiful circles of light in the photo. (Remember, though, if there's a person in your photo you will also get the red eyes and washed out skin tone a flash usually causes.)
To get this shot: Head outside when it's snowing and dark, and start shooting on auto. Because it's dark your flash will pop up automatically. 3. Open your aperture. If you want a person in your photo to be in focus, but the Christmas lights in the background to be out of focus, you'll need to change the settings on your camera. Grab your manual and figure out how to get to aperture priority mode (usually AV). You'll want to take a photo like this during the day when the room is well lit so your subject's face looks good.
To get this photo: Switch your camera to AV mode and set the aperture to the lowest number it will go to (if you have a 50mm 1.8 lens, use it now!). Place your subject about 5 feet or more in front of the lit tree - the more distance between the person and the tree, the bigger the blur will be. Also, if you can back up and zoom in with your lens, you'll get even more blur. Take the photo, being sure you're focusing on your subject, not the tree. Have your subject hold an ornament out away from his body and focus on it for another cute variation. (If you really don't want to mess with changing the aperture, you can try using portrait mode and putting as much space between the tree and subject as possible. Or, if the room your tree is in is large, you can zoom in to get bokeh as described in this post.)
Good luck getting some amazing photos - and happy holidays!