Christmas Tree Bokeh

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are in full swing and there is time to spend with our families and enjoy time off from school and work. This time of year also brings about a least a quarter of a million photos to share on social media.

At this point there are many images of people’s trees all over their social media. With different ornaments and presents all neatly wrapped up under the tree. While that is important, I wanted to share some fun photography trick I’ve learned while taking Christmas tree photos. This technique utilizes “bokeh,” which is the Japanese word for “blurry”. The intentional use of blur in your photos can make your tree standout against the sea of photos on social media.

You can do this with a point and shoot camera or a DSLR. The only requirement is you have to be able to manually focus your camera’s lens and/or choose the aperture (this tells the lens how wide or small to make the opening of the lens). This helps you to create that twinkling bokeh.

image by Dina Farmer
image by Dina Farmer

First –

You’ll want to make sure the room is dark. Why? Because you want those lights to be the main light source, although it’s okay if there is some ambient lights. Although the photo below is okay, it was shot in the middle of the day, hence the cast of light behind the tree. This is a decent photo of a tree, however it isn’t the Christmas bokeh I’m describing.

Poor example of Christmas tree Bokeh. Image via Dina Farmer
Poor example of Christmas tree Bokeh. Image via Dina Farmer

If you are using a point and shoot camera you won’t have to worry about setting the aperture or how sensitive your camera is to light, since the point and shoot will already do that for you. It might take a couple of tries because you can have some protesting from your camera wanting to turn on the in camera flash. Your camera should have an option to turn off the flash in the settings menu. Now simply point your camera lens at your tree, and then adjust the focus manually. Turning the focus ring until it creates that circular bokeh.

If you are using a DLSR, I would recommend bumping up your ISO to make your camera more sensitive to light. Most of these photos were taken at ISO 800 or higher. With that, open up your aperture as wide as it will go (which is ironically the smallest number) doing this gives us bigger circles in the bokeh. In the image below, I opened my aperture up to f/3.5 (as wide as my lens would allow) and turned my focusing ring until I saw, in camera, the circular bokeh. Even though there is a light source behind this tree, it is complimentary. I shot this with no dominant light source like the sun, over exposing my image.  You’ll end up with a image similar to this with beautiful circular lights. I hope you enjoy practicing on your tree and remember, this is for fun, so don’t stress and just snap away!

image via Dina Farmer
image via Dina Farmer

Have you tried this out? I’d love to hear what you have to say or share your images of your tree!