Creative Christmas Photography Ideas

Bokeh Christmas Lights

Are you looking for some creative Christmas photography ideas to try out with your camera this year? I’ve pulled together some ideas you can experiment with.

Idea 1 // Christmas Tree Bokeh

Christmas bokeh is a staple of many festive photos, and it’s a really easy technique to master. Bokeh is where points of light (i.e. all the lights on your Christmas tree) turn into beautiful blurred circles of light. The more lights that are on your tree, the more bokeh circles you’ll have in your photo.

To take the photo, select a lens with a wide maximum aperture. If you have one, a 50mm ‘nifty fifty’ lens is perfect. If you don’t have one, read here to find out why you should!. The technique for taking Christmas tree bokeh is exactly the same technique as taking a photo with a blurry background. Set your camera to either manual or aperture priority mode. Start with as wide an aperture as your lens allows. Set your ISO to 200, higher if the lights on your subject is poor. Ideally your subject will be a couple of metres from the tree, and facing a window or other light source.

You’re then going to focus on your subject. This will throw the background out of focus and create lots of beautiful bokeh. Once you’ve taken a photo or two you might want to adjust the settings to improve your photograph. Watch that your shutter speed doesn’t drop too low, if your photo is blurry check to see whether you are experiencing camera shake.

Idea 2 // Christmas Starbursts

Bokeh is a staple of many Christmas photos. Some simple changes to your camera settings can also give a different effect for your Christmas lights, starbursts. Starbursts are when multiple points of light come out of each bulb on your Christmas tree, creating a twinkling star effect.

In order to make Christmas lights appear as starburst’s you need a small aperture, i.e. a large F number. You want to be somewhere in the region of f16 to f32.

You will need to keep an eye on your other settings too. Using a small aperture will mean the amount of light coming into your camera is reduced and you will need to increase your ISO or slow your shutter speed to compensate. You may find a tripod is necessary, or at least resting your camera on a sturdy object.

Idea 3 // Out of Focus

A alternative technique is to manually focus your camera so that your Christmas tree lights are deliberately out of focus.

This is a really simple technique. All you need to do is to move the switch on the side of your lens from AF (autofocus) to MF (manual focus). This will stop your camera focusing on the Christmas tree lights. By turning the focussing ring (normally the one at the front of your lens) you can have the lights in focus, a little out of focus or a lot out of focus, depending on the effect you want to achieve. This technique works no matter what aperture you select.

Remember to switch your lens back to autofocus when you’ve finished.

Idea 4 // Shaped Bokeh

A little preparation is needed for this one, but it’s worth the effort. Using this technique you can change the shape of the bokeh in your photos.

Start by making a tube of black paper or card that fits neatly over your lens, and cut a circle of black card that closes one end of the tube. Carefully cut out a small shape (such as stars or hearts) or use a paper punch in the centre of the end piece of card. Attach the end piece to the tube, and place over the lens. Select a wide aperture in order to take the photo.

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