Every year one of my main photo goals is to take a fabulous picture of my tree and to master pretty bokeh using Christmas lights. I’m not sure that I’ve quite mastered these specific skills yet, but here are a few things that I’ve learned.
First up is my picture of tree with sparkly lights. For this shot, I waited until it was completely dark outside, set up my tripod and used the following settings: f4.0, 1/10 shutter speed, and 3200 ISO. Depending on your camera and what lens you’re using, settings will vary. The main thing is using the tripod so that your photo will still be crisp, but the shutter speed slow enough to capture the sparkle.
A fun, artistic picture to take is one that highlights your pretty lights and turns them into bokeh. For this shot, I set my camera on manual focus, then (un)focused until the bokeh was the size I wanted and snapped the picture. My settings for this picture were as follows: f2.0, 1/30 shutter speed and 2000 ISO.
My friend Christine set up a make-shift studio in her living room to capture some bokeh using Christmas lights, and I asked if I could share her process with you.
I utilized a curtain rod and some clothes pins I already had. I purchased five yards of white felt (on super sale!) so that I had enough to act as a seamless background. I then strung the lights that I had found at my craft store. There’s a thousand lights here, or 10 strands of 100 lights. (I hope to pick up more when they go on sale after the holiday… I’d like to experiment with more too.)
In order to get enough light, I used my reflector set up perpendicular to the set up (and me obviously) I bounced my flash off it at 90 degrees and it was enough to get the fill light. As you can see, I do have some directional light. Alternatively, I’m sure studio or video lights would work as more even fill.
In order to get the pretty bokeh, I shot pretty tight on aperture – f2. I used a SS of 1/250 and a ISO of 500 using my 50mm lens. The size of the light “dots” and the clarity of the strings (or lack there of) then depended on distance between my subject and the backdrop. As well as the subject and the camera. The bigger bokeh was created when he was about 4 feet in front of the lights, and I was tight in on him. You can see as I back up, the bokeh gets smaller and you can start to see the light strings. (Which I personally don’t mind) It was fun to just play around and see what I got. (And it does require some trial and error!)
Her set -up
And the adorable resulting picture
For more tips, here are a few articles I found:
Clickin’ Moms: Christmas Tree Lights
Pure: How to Photograph Christmas Lights
Getting Great Indoor Photos This Christmas