Take Christmas photos like a pro!

By Lori Mork

USE A BOKEH EFFECT

Bokeh effect

Use a bokeh effect to achieve the “twinkly lights” look.

Love those twinkly lights in the background of a photo? That intentionally blurred background is called bokeh and here’s how you can accomplish it.

The trick is to place the subject three to five feet in front of the lights, making sure there’s some natural light on the subject’s face. Use the largest aperture possible and have the camera close to the person. In the photo to the right, I used a Christmas tree with the lights on. You can also tape Christmas lights to a solid colored wall.

If you have an advanced point and shoot camera, switch the camera to Aperture Priority. If your camera doesn’t have that, switch to Macro or Portrait mode, which should also work.

Turn off the flash. This is important.

Try to take the photos during the day when you have some natural light coming in from behind you.

Place the person three to five feet in front of the tree or lights, then hold the camera as close to the subject as you can and keep them in focus. If the camera has a zoom feature, zoom in as close as you can, then back up as far as necessary to focus on the person.

This photo was taken with a DSLR (Nikon D700) camera on aperture priority using an 80-200mm lens. The settings were f/3.2 with a shutter speed of 1/100 or 1/160 and a high ISO of 6400. You can use lower ISO if you have enough light, such as 400 with a 50mm f/1.8 lens and a shutter speed of 1/60. You may need a tripod to keep from having a blurred subject.

LIGHTS OFF

Christmas tree photo

Steady your camera on a tripod and use a timer when shooting in low light to eliminate any “jiggle.”

The Christmas tree photo was taken with all lights in the room off with the exception of the tree lights – again, turn off the flash!

With the flash off, your camera will shoot much slower, so you’ll need something to hold your camera steady so the photo won’t be blurry (tripod, stack of books, piece of furniture).

With the slow shutter speed, you might need to use the self-timer to give you a small delay after pushing the button; that way your camera won’t jiggle while the photo is being taken.
If you have a DSLR camera, try this trick: Set your ISO high (1600 or 3200), use a tripod or something to steady the camera and meter on the light from the tree. This will make the shutter speed very long, so use the self-timer mode to keep the photo sharp.

This will help you get lights that look twinkly and your whole tree will be in focus!

This photo was taken with a DSLR camera (Nikon D90) mounted on a tripod and a 35mm f/1.8 lens. The ISO was at 3,200 and shutter speed was at 1/30th. I used the self-timer mode so there wouldn’t be any jiggle and the tree would be sharp and in focus. 

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