Photography is one of the best ways to capture some of the magic of the Christmas season. And all the lights we have strung up outside and inside provide a beautiful backdrop for preserving some of those moments.
Since photography literally means writing with light, you can really get into the fun part of taking pictures when you play with different ways of capturing the light. Bokeh is pronounced bow-kay and means the intentional blurring of lights. It’s when you get your lights to look like little round reflecting mirrors in your photos. It’s not hard to do, so one night when you’ve kicked back and you’re enjoying staring at your Christmas tree, grab your camera and experiment a bit. The trick is to use a really big aperture (remember big aperture means small f-number). And it’s easier to do if you focus on something in the foreground and have your lights in the background. Also easier to have a subject that’s not going to move when you’re first practicing! Later you can try it with your family or friends opening gifts in front of the tree or eating dinner by candlelight.
My lens is a 35mm macro lens and I’ll share the settings I used for the photo above as a starting point. Then you can experiment and make adjustments according to your camera and lens. It’s worth it to learn something new and awesome with your photography…you probably paid a lot of money for that camera, so work it! Did you know that on flickr you can search photos by your camera type, and then narrow your search even more. So if you need some help, choose Explore/Camera Finder from the first menu and choose your camera model, then scroll to the bottom and enter “bokeh” in the search box. Then if you click on a photo that you like, you can click on the three dots icon at the bottom right of the photo and choose “view exif info” and you will see all the settings used for that photo. Cool eh? Sorry, lots of instructions, but if you’re one for spending time searching the internet this can be a really fun and helpful exercise.
OK moving on. So turn your mode dial to manual mode and set your f-stop/aperture to something big…for this photo mine was set to 2.8. Then you want to focus on your subject and adjust your shutter speed until your exposure is perfect. In other words, the little lines at the bottom of your viewfinder come to the middle at the 0. Mine is at 1/125 in this photo in really dim light and focussed on the candle.
Now give it a try! Then take a look at it on your display and see if you like it. Is it too dark or too light? Adjust your shutter speed accordingly. Did you capture the lights as bokeh? Maybe try a larger aperture. Experiment and try it a bunch of different ways until you’re happy with the result. Then remember your settings and you’re ready to try it again to capture lots of magical moments and scenes this Christmas in a beautiful way. Have fun!