Thought this would be a nice article to post from Darren Rowse
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… and in our forums I’ve noticed more and more great Christmas images being shared – some of which feature a technique that is always popular at this time of year – Bokeh Christmas lights shots.
The technique takes a bit of experimenting and practice but is relatively simple to do. You need some Christmas lights and a camera lens with a reasonably ‘fast’ aperture (or a large aperture).
The key is to shoot at the larger end of your available aperture – this throws the background (and foreground) of your shot out of focus and any Christmas lights in the foreground or background will become little balls of light.
As you’ll see in most of the images featured in this series – the technique is particularly good if you also have some element in your shot that is in focus. This ‘subject’ might be a person, a pet, a Christmas decoration or something else.
You can make the little balls of light bigger by increasing the distance between your in focus subject and the out of focus lights in the background.
While most of the images in this series have the Christmas lights in the background of the image (behind the subject) it is also possible to create the little bokeh balls of light by putting the lights in the foreground of your image (in front of your subject). You can see this in the image below. The impact is a little different as the bokeh balls will cover part of your subject.
Another popular technique is to create different shaped bokeh. You can make stars, hearts or even little snow flakes like the image below.
To get these different little bokeh shapes is pretty simple. You just need to make a little cutout ‘mask’ for your lens. Rather than go over how to do it here check out this video tutorial that will walk you through it here.
The other way to change the shape of your bokeh balls is to experiment with different apertures. You’ll find that in most cases the larger your aperture the rounder the ball – but go for a slightly smaller aperture you may find your bokeh becomes more hexagonal (or Heptagonal or Octagonal… the number of sides will depend upon how many blades your lens has).
The different ways of using this bokeh Christmas lights technique is only limited by your imagination. Here are some more examples to give you ideas. Enjoy!