I used to look at pictures of a subject where the background was blurry and the lights looks liked beautiful orbs and thought to myself, “Why can’t I do this?”.
I recently played around with Bokeh (the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image) in my house and here are 5 things I found useful that may help you as well:
1- Christmas Lights are the bomb!
Seriously, get your Christmas lights out and hang them up! They are the perfect size to produce beautiful blurred balls that when placed strategically, look fantastic! The subject should be in front of the lights by at least 3 meters.
For the pictures above, I hung the lights up to the wall in the background and placed the tea pot and Dragonball soda pop on a table that was much closer to the camera.
2- Keep the F-Stop on the lowest number you can!
Try using a lens with a low f-stop number (such as 2.8) and with a focal length of at least 50mm. The lower the number, the more visible your Bokeh will become. The picture above was shot with a 70-200 at f2.8, for example. Below are some other examples of how the light looks at different F-stops:
Different F-stops and focal lengths will have a big effect on how the light interacts with your lens and camera, so you may want to experiment a little to get the effect you are looking for!
3- Black paper and patterns are your friends!
Something that you may have seen before are pictures (such as the skeleton couple at the top of this blog post) that have somehow given shapes to the light spheres, and they look amazing! While you may think that this is done through Photoshop, the truth is that you don’t need to post-process your pictures to achieve this effect. Lucas Ridley has a great Video that shows you the materials needed and steps you need to take to get any shape you need using only black paper and a precision knife.
As a tip, you want to make the shapes medium sized. Too small and they appear like this:
Too large, and the shape begins to loose it’s structure:
So make them medium sized, and you should be good to go!
I also added the paper sizes of the hearts I made for each picture, so you can get a better idea of how big or small you should be making your shapes!
4- Experiment with other lights!
While I love how Christmas lights look like, you can practically use almost any light source to achieve this effect. In the picture above and below, I used a Macro Ring Flash to change it up a bit (and yes, I am a big Dragonball Z fan!)
5- The possibilities are endless!
Finally, the only limit is your imagination. Find different objects to shoot, place the lights in different ways, go out and play with city lights on a rainy night if you live close to downtown (I live in Ottawa and it is amazing how beautiful the city is in the evening!) If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll try my best to answer you!
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