Can you bokeh?

To learn about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures at the CPLC.

Season’s greetings! A mini Holiday Bokeh tutorial

In this festive season of last minute gift buying, endless Christmas carols, and overindulging in delicious food, we at CPLC would like to remind you that this is also the perfect time of year to pull out your cameras and flex your photographic muscles as a way to combat that tryptophan induced turkey coma. Yes, you can take beautiful portraits of your friends and family, but don’t forget to take advantage of all the stunning Christmas lights/displays to create some unique and creative photos of Christmas Bokeh.

“Holiday Bokeh” – Say What?!

Without delving into sciencey jargon, “bokeh” can be described as the way your lens depicts out of focus areas/points of light, or even more simply, the background blur. Have you seen photos where lights in the background are out of focus, and instead of just being a point, they take on these creamy, soft, and defocused circular shapes? Those out of focus shapes are an example of light bokeh, that you can easily achieve in your photos.

Calgary photography classes

Calgary photography classes

In the above examples, the subjects in focus are the pepsi bottles and a branch in the foreground, while the lights peeking through the trees in the background are out focus, so they get rendered as bokeh. Points of light that are not in focus will take generally on the shape of your lens’ aperture (usually circular). The larger your aperture (or the smaller your f/ number) is set to while taking these photos, the larger the bokeh shapes will be.

Your turn to try!

A couple points to note – in order to make lights on the Christmas tree appear as bokeh circles, they should be

1) out of focus, and
2) photographed with a large aperture.

This is easily done by setting your lens’ aperture to it’s smallest f/number (ie: f/ 3.5, or lower if your lens is able). Then take a photo where you focus on something (the cat, a gift wrapped present, grandma, etc) in the foreground, while the christmas lights are further away in the background. The farther apart your subject is from the background, the more pronounced the bokeh will be.

Calgary photography classes

Even if you don’t have a willing foreground subject because they are all passed out from the Turkey induced coma, you can still take bokeh Christmas lights photos easily. Try setting your lens to manual focus, and intentionally focussing to where a foreground subject would be, while leaving the lights of the Christmas tree in the background out of focus.

Calgary photography classes

Calgary photography classes

In the above examples, neither the lights on the Christmas tree or the reindeer display are in focus, and because they were shot with a large aperture, they become large circular bokeh shapes. Try it out for yourself, it’s very simple to do, and takes little set up.

We hope this mini tutorial helps kickstart your Christmas creativity, and we would love to hear from you in the comments how your adventures with holiday bokeh turn out. From all of us at the CPLC, wishing you and yours a happy holiday season filled with fun, food, and photos!

To learn more about these principles and put them into practice, take Using Your DSLR or Mirrorless Camera and Getting Proper Exposures at the CPLC.

One Response to “Can you bokeh?”
  1. MarkEso

    Hi! The end result looks great! I just tried to floolw this tutorial but it didn’t seem to work for me. I think GIMP has updated their menus since this was created so it was a little hard to floolw. For example the “copy visible “ is in the edit tab not the file tab. It seemed to stop working for me during the layering bit. Any chance you can update the steps.Thank you!Angela


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