Christmas Tree Light Bokeh

Like I mentioned last week, I’m trying to answer some of your questions you had regarding taking photos around Christmas. One of the popular questions was about capturing Christmas tree light bokeh. It is very similar to capturing regular bokeh and may be easier than you thought.

You need to shoot on manual mode for this one.

Often times you want to take a picture of something or someone in front of the tree and have the Christmas tree lights bokeh in the background.

One easy step to Christmas tree light bokeh

1. Set your aperture wide open.
You will need to have a very low now to create those big circle bokeh you are trying to achieve. The wider the aperture the better the bokeh. It’s that easy. The 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8G are great affordable lenses that will help you achieve this look. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present…you know you want to.

f/1.8 ss1/80 ISO 2500 – 35mm

50mm f/1.8 ISO 800 ss 1/100

f/1.8 ISO 100 ss 0.6 sec – 50mm

Make sure your image is properly exposed. It is better to raise your ISO and have a properly exposed image than to keep your ISO low for the sake of preventing grain or noise. Remember the noise/grain is worse in an underexposed image.

Another fun thing to do if you just want to create some bokeh is to play with your manual focus.

Blurry bokeh

These two images are taken with the same settings – f/2.2, ISO 800, ss 1/100. The difference is I took it off auto focus and did manual focus.

Instead of actually focusing on the tree I turned the focal ring until the tree was out of focus. This creates that great bokeh. You can still tell what the subject is but it’s a different way to photograph your tree. Just something to play with. The blurrier the focal point the bigger the bokeh.

If you liked this post, you don’t want to miss these other Christmas posts:
* 16 Tips to Photograph Christmas morning
* 5 steps on how to photograph Christmas lights
* Tips to make your Christmas photos more than snapshots
* How to create beams of Christmas lights
* Christmas Tree Lights Photos: 5 Easy Steps

*This post contains affiliate links. Thanks in advance if you purchase something through one of those links and support Click it Up a Notch!

  • November 27, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Love it! Thanks for the tips! I was playing around with shooting my Christmas Tree in the dark this weekend and it was surprisingly easy! :)

    • Courtney
      November 27, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      Yes, I think people would be surprised how much easier it is than they think!! Hope you will share some of your images on our Facebook page!

  • rachel
    November 27, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    this makes me smile! :) now i HaVe to decorate…

    • Courtney
      November 29, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      Thanks, Rachel! It is a fun way to capture your Christmas :)

  • Jen
    November 28, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    This is why I got that lens for Christmas last year so I could take all of these cool photos. Now, I just need to do it. It would help if I get my tree up too. Thanks for this!

    • Courtney
      November 29, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      Oh, you will love that lens :) I need to get my tree up for this year as well :) Photographing Christmas is a lot of fun!

  • November 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    Thanks for the post! I keep putting off shooting pics of my tree and I need to make time to do it. Hopefully this weekend as your shots have inspired me! :)

    • Courtney
      November 29, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      Yes, it is definitely a challenge to find the time to capture the photos we want! See if you can steal away 15 minutes :)

  • November 29, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    Thanks for the wonderful tips, I can’t wait to try them out and see what I can come up with!

    • Courtney
      November 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      I’m sure they will come out great!! It is so fun to play with your camera and try new things!! Have fun!

  • Michele
    December 2, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    Awesome thank you! I’m so excited to take one of these photos with my own tree!!!!

    • Courtney
      December 3, 2012 at 9:09 PM

      Hope you decide to share it on our Facebook page!! Have fun!

  • December 5, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    So did you focus on your subject in the top photos and snap away….???

    • Courtney
      December 5, 2012 at 11:29 AM

      Yup, focused on the cup and then snapped :) Super easy :) Meter off the subject as well!

  • December 5, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    Oh Courtney!
    I have been playing with one of my favorite things ever BOKEH!
    And I have never set my camera to Manual! I looked at your site…(first time I have ever been on it is today!)
    and I thought ok…I am going to do what she says!
    Oh my gosh…Courtney…I love it!!
    I got great fun bokeh shots. Love it and just like you said…big and small depending.
    Now I have to work on getting something in focus in front…It is really hard to do that..I find.
    But I will keep working on it. If you have any ideas how to focus on a small object in front of the out of focus tree…let me know!
    I love your site..thanks so much!
    I Am a Believer!

    • Courtney
      December 7, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      Yay!! I’m so glad you gave manual a try, Debbie!!! Yippee!!! Okay, so to get your subject in focus make sure you are using auto focus and check out this post about changing your focal point. Then place your focal point on your subject and the rest will be blurry and you should get your beautiful bokeh :)

  • flor
    December 19, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    i’m so excited to try this! i have never tried this before and you’ve
    explained it so well!!
    one question, is it ok to adjust the focus ring on a prime lens (af-s lens)? it won’t
    affect the auto focusing mechanism? i’ve often wondered about this in the past and now
    am just now getting the guts to ask :)

    • Courtney
      December 21, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      Yes, if you switch the lens to manual focus mode then it is perfectly fine to adjust your focal ring. However, when you switch back to auto focus don’t mess with the ring :) When in manual focus mode it won’t mess up what you have on your auto focusing :) Don’t be afraid to ask!! I PROMISE I have probably already asked the same question in my journey!

  • Allie
    December 26, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Ohmygoodness! You’re site is amazing! It’s helped me so much! I got a Nikon D3000 for Christmas and I tried out the bokeh and it ended up looking awesome! But the picture was dark… Would that be a settings problem or a lighting problem? Thanks!

    • Courtney
      December 30, 2012 at 11:24 PM

      Thanks!!! Congrats on your new camera!! It is hard to say what the setting problem might be without seeing the picture. Feel free to send me the image and the settings and I can take a look at the photo for you. [email protected]

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