[Special Holidays] The method for taking great Christmas photos or the Special Bokeh Tutorial!


[Special Holidays] The method for taking great Christmas photos or the Special Bokeh Tutorial!

Dear Manfrotto readers, hello!

So here is the 3rd episode of our series of “Special End of the Year Holidays” tutorials.

Please allow me to bring up the two previous photo tutorials for anyone who was too overloaded or had to bake too many Christmas cookies or Christmas confections to leave time to pursue photographic exploits…

Since the beginning of the month of December, 2014, we have studied:

_ 5 photography ideas to try out when you’re out Christmas shopping

_ then these 3 camera functions you’ll need to photograph your town’s Christmas lights at night

Today, as I announced last week, we’re going to discuss indoor photography during this holiday period with that indispensable technique for everyone that loves year’s end photos and the magic of Christmas : Bokeh !

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is that beautiful blur in the background which at holiday times generally translates into a beautiful blur of strings of holiday lights with beautiful glowing dots of every color which will melt your heart and fill you with good cheer… (yes, everyone gets very happy right away).

So below I offer you a very simple, but terribly effective method to take your very first bokeh in your living room to the delight of your family and friends!


First, let’s look at the accessories.

For this tutorial, here’s what you’ll need:

  • a typical Christmas subject (a Christmas ball, decorations for the Christmas tree, a figure from the nativity scene…)
  • a string of lights (if possible, one with lots of colors, like blue, red, green, yellow, etc.)

Photo Tuto3_Photo1

  • a small tripod (like the very practical Manfrotto Pixi) – if you don’t have a small tripod, place your camera on the floor or make your own base with a pile of 2 or 3 books you can place your camera on

Photo Tuto3_Photo2

Once your accessories are ready, grab your camera (Reflex, Bridge, Compact Expert) and then place all the elements like in the diagram below (you can improvise a decor for the occasion or simply use what’s already in your living room with the Christmas tree in the background) and light your Christmas lights.

Here, the “snowman” subject is represented by the small black silhouette

Photo Tuto3_PhotoSetting


To get a really nice blur in the background and beautiful round points of light in every color, you need to select the aperture priority mode on your camera and set it to get a beautiful bokeh effect.

You’ll need to select the A or Av mode (depending on your brand of camera) using the scroll wheel at the top of your camera.

Then, choose a large aperture : meaning you’ll turn the scroll wheel until the smallest number after the F (example: F1.4, F1.8, F2.2, F2.8, F4, etc…). The smaller the number after the F (1.4 is smaller than 4) the more you’ll get the bokeh effect.

Depending on the model and the luminosity of your lens, you will get a lower or higher number (the lighter an object, the more you’ll get a figure smaller than F).

Below: the first photo was taken at F5 and the second at F1.8 => at F1.8, the Bokeh appears and gives this magical quality to your image.

F5 Aperture (Exifs: F5, 4s, ISO 100 – Nikon Lens 50mm 1.8 AFS G)

Photo Tuto3_Photo3

F1.8 aperture and the Bokeh appears! (Exifs : F1.8, 1/13s, ISO 640 – Nikon Lens 50mm 1.8 AFS G)

Photo Tuto3_Photo4


There it is! You’ve just taken your first bokeh !

Now, let’s see how you can improve your image.

A. Is your photo too light?

If you think your photo is too light/over-exposed, choose the “Exposure Correction” function of your camera (this is the function illustrated by a very small pictogram with a “+/-“) and choose the value “-1″ or “-2” or even “-3“.

That way you’ll get a darker photo like the image below.

A -2 or -3 exposure correction will give you a darker “Christmas Night” effect

Photo Tuto3_Photo5

B. The background color is nice, but is your subject too dark? Use the “Exposure Correction” function!

Now, the background light is good, but your subject is too dark? Use an external light or a flashlight for small objects to light your subject (and only your subject).

Below the snowman is lit up by a small flashlight and right away it is really showcased in this shot.

Photo Tuto3_Photo6

C. Your photo lens won’t let you get a small F so your bokeh is hardly even visible?

Your photo lens isn’t that bright? Don’t worry. There are still 2 solutions for a great bokeh :

  • Use a large focal distance (you’ll get a Bokeh effect more easily with a 150mm focal length than an 18mm focal length)
  • Move your subject to increase the distance between your subject and the background lights (the farther away your lights are, the easier it is to transform led lights into bright dots)

Photo Tuto3_Bonus

Below: the 2 photos were taken at F5 which doesn’t correspond to a large aperture. But, for the 2nd photo, the bokeh is very pronounced. Why?

It’s because there is a larger distance between the snowman and the string of lights.

Below, the Aperture is F5 : image without bokeh because the aperture is not very large and the subject is close to the strings of lights

Photo Tuto3_Photo3

Below Aperture F5: image with bokeh because even if the aperture isn’t very big, the subject is farther away from the strings of lights

Photo Tuto3_Photo7

So now you know the simple but terribly effective method for great Christmas photos with Bokeh effect !

Our first tutorial on Indoors Christmas photos comes to an end.
See you soon and we’ll meet again next week for a 4th “Special End of the Year” tutorial.

Meanwhile, get your cameras, try some Bokeh photos and post your great photos and your comments too.
Who’ll be the first to show us their first Special Christmas Bokeh photo?

Maïeva Voyage

“Women have things to say in the world of photography too!”, that’s the leitmotiv of Maïeva Voyage.
Mingling with passionate and exciting amateur and professional photographers at the Photo Club of Hanoi, Maïeva Voyage developed her photographic techniques.
Here she shares her advice and useful tips on Photo-tuto.fr, her feminine photo blog with fun and off-the-wall tutorials.
For the third time, Maïeva Voyage is the invited author of Manfrotto Imagine More. 
She’ll be on the site throughout the month of December 2014 for the “Special Holiday” tutorials.

Maïeva Voyage on the Web:

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