Holiday bokeh effect

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Happy Holidays! I don’t know about you, but for me the holidays are always a bit of a blur between the get-togethers, the gifts, the endless cookies and the eggnog — which gets a little extra blurry with a little splash of bourbon.

Speaking of blurry… let’s talk about a fun photo trick you can try while the holiday lights are still up. You’ll see lots of stock images that use this trick. Especially around the holidays.

First, a quick photo vocabulary lesson…

When part of your photo is super blurry — usually the background — it’s called “bokeh.” The classic use of bokeh is in a portrait, where the background is nice and soft, like this:


But sometimes you can make bokeh the main subject, like this:

Holiday Bokeh

This works best with holiday lights, giving your photo a glowy, sparkly feeling.

This is one of the easiest photo “tricks” to try. Here’s what you need:

  • Bright lights. This can work with Christmas tree lights, candles, lamps, even a cityscape.
  • Manual focus. Switch your lens to manual focus — this is one of the few times you’ll want to intentionally blur your image.
  • A lens with a wide opening aperture is a bonus. Shoot with at least f/2.8, but f/1.8 or f/1.4 would be ideal. A 50mm prime lens would be perfect for this. See my “nifty fifty” article here.

Get fairly close to the lights, then intentionally turn your manual focus on your lens to blur the shot. Try it just a little blurry… then VERY blurry. See what you get! These kinds of soft focused, simple images are great for stock because they provide a huge canvas of copy space for designers to use.

It’s all about having fun and embracing the blur!

Editor’s Note: Learn more about getting started selling your photos online in stock agencies – no matter how much or little photography experience you have – in the Breakfast Stock Club e-newsletter. It’s once a week, and it’s free to join, here.

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