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Monday, December 4, 2017

Photography Tutorial {Christmas bokeh made easy!}

'Tis the season for smooching under the holly, Santa, hot chocolate, and those pretty Christmas photos with the blurry Christmas lights in the background. Have you seen those pretty pictures with the blurry lights in the background? Bokeh is the name of that pretty blur that is created when something is out of focus, and it's especially pretty when created with Christmas lights. Have you ever wanted to capture those types of photos? Let me show you how! It might a few tries, but really, it's not rocket science. And it might be easier than you think! 

For this tutorial you're going to need:

1 - A DSLR or a mirror-less camera. That's the one that has the lens that comes off. 
2 - If you're fortunate enough to have more than one lens, use the lens that has the lowest aperture value/f-stop. Also, if you have a filter on your lens, go ahead and take it off. 
3 - A basic understanding of Exposure and focus can't hurt. Although this isn't a hard technique, it's even easier to get these results if you have an understanding of how your camera works. My Manual 'n More class is the one I recommend to learn these things. 
4 - Some Christmas lights of course!
Now that you have your supplies, let get started!

Step 1 - Let's set the camera to Aperture priority mode. Aperture priority is denoted as Av on Canon and A on Nikon. If you're comfortable shooting in Manual mode, the by all means shoot in Manual mode! And if you'd like to learn to shoot in Manual mode then please head over HERE, and let me show you how!

Step 2 - Now set the aperture value to the lowest number that your lens has. That might be f/1.8 if you are using a nifty 50mm lens. We're aiming for an aperture value lower than f/4.0. The lower it gets the more of that blurry background you'll get. 

Step 3 - If you're in Manual mode, balance your remaining settings, ISO and shutter speed, so that you have the desired exposure but still have a fast-enough shutter speed to avoid motion blur. If you're shooting in Aperture priority mode your camera will determine these settings for you.

Step 4 - Now let's go ahead and take a test shot and see how this is looking. If you like what you see, then great! But if this pic isn't quite what you hoped for, please keep reading, and let's see if we can get closer to what you were hoping for. 

If you wanted more blur in the Christmas lights in the background you have a few options.  
1) Move your camera closer to your subject.
2) Create more physical space between the subject and/or the Christmas light by moving farther apart. 
3) Combine of both of these options.  
4) Use a lens that has a lower aperture value. 

If there's not enough light where you're taking these photos, you might notice your camera's shutter speed getting really slow. If your shutter speed is dipping below 1/100th, you can use a tripod instead of hand-holding your camera. If you don't have a tripod (or like me you just don't want to haul it out) you can set your camera down on something safe and sturdy like a table or the floor. This will allow you to have a shutter speed as slow as you need. But beware, if you need a tripod for a slow shutter speed, it's probably too slow to take picture of moving subjects, like kiddos, even if they are holding still, but you can still freeze some non-moving subjects.
Unless you've told it otherwise, your camera will probably want to focus on whatever is closest to the lens. If your camera is focusing on the wrong thing, you'll need to dig into your manual and see how to tell your camera where you want it to focus. Look for the terms like "focal points" and/or "spot focusing" in your camera manual. Alternatively you can manually focus. 
Remember that photo at the beginning of the post? 
100mm, f/2.8, 1/13, ISO 100
If your subject isn't in enough focus, take a step back, creating more physical distance between you and your subject. 
So there you have it! I really hope you give it and try, and if you do I would absolutely LOVE too see your Christmas bokeh pictures! It's really pretty fun! And pretty please, head on over to my Facebook page and post your photos on this post so I can see them. And if you have any questions, I'm more than happy to help you out and share what I know!

Merry Christmas and happy snapping! 

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