If you’re as crackers about Christmas as I am chances are you’ve already decorated your Christmas tree and festooned it and the rest of the house with hundreds of twinkling lights. Which is why today I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite effects for photographing Christmas lights that really bring out the sparkle and fun of the festive season.
First things first, for both of these effects you will need a DSLR and be familiar with shooting in manual mode as you must be able to set the aperture (f-stop), ISO and shutter speed as well as selecting to focus manually.
You will also need a tripod or a flat surface on which to rest your camera and know how to set the self-timer or use a remote shutter release.
You don’t need any special lenses; the one that came with your camera will do the job.
Okay on with the fun part!
In the first part of the tutorial we’ll be creating this twinkly light effect.
To create this effect you’ll need to switch to manual mode and set your camera to the following:
Aperture: f22 (or the highest your lens will allow if it won’t go as far as f22)
Shutter speed: 30 seconds
White balance: Auto
Focus mode: AF. This stands for auto focus.
Point your camera at the tree, and compose your shot. When you’re ready press the shutter button or press the remote and wait until the camera has finished taking the photo. This is quite a long exposure so try not to nudge or wobble the camera while it’s shooting.
Next we’ll be creating some shaped bokeh.
You will need:
A piece of card cut into a circle slightly bigger than your lens.
Scissors or a punch to cut your shape with. You could try a heart or a star or whatever takes your fancy.
First punch or cut your shape in the centre of the circle of card. Then tape the card to the front of your lens, making sure the shaped hole is over the centre of the lens (see below).
Aperture: f1.8 (or the lowest figure your lens will go to)
White Balance: Auto
Focus mode: MF. This stands for manual focus.
Point your camera at the tree, and compose your shot. It should be slightly out of focus. When you’re ready press the shutter button or press the remote and wait until the camera has finished taking the photo.
You can also switch your camera to auto focus and capture something, or someone, in front of the lights and have the shaped bokeh in the background. Use all the same settings as before but choose AF instead of MF for the focus mode and make sure there’s plenty of distance between your subject and the lights. In the image below I sat Ms C Spaniel halfway between the lights and my camera and focussed on her left eye. Not a perfect shot by any means but enough to give you the general idea.
If you have any questions about the settings etc please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
This post was originally published on the 2nd of December 2015