The reason those Christmas lights look so big and beautifully blurry is a photography term called bokeh (pronounced bo-kuh if you’re wondering). There are two ways you can create the right situation for bokeh in your Christmas pictures.
The second way to create the right situation for bokeh is to actually manipulate your depth of field physically. For these pictures, I wanted a portrait of each of my kids with a blurry Christmas light background. The other thing you can do with bokeh is take artistic pictures of just the  Christmas tree lights. I switched into manual focus, and then twisted the focus ring until I had the desired effect.
We have a front hall light right inside our door where the kids were standing, so that was on.
The funny thing is this is what Christmas trees look like if you’re near-sighted and not wearing glasses. If your picture is blurry and you cannot open up your aperture any more, then you need more light. You should also turn your ISO up higher to make your camera more sensitive to the light you do have.
Welcome to Snap Happy Mom, where you'll find tutorials and advice to help you take better pictures of your family.
Unless otherwise stated, all content and photos are property of Snap Happy Mom, and are protected by copyright laws. Some links on this page are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click or buy through my link. And as bloggers that care about the quality of our images, we really do our best to take good pictures that enhance the experience of visiting us here at Domestic Bliss Squared.
As of right now, I (Jessica) primarily use a Pansonic DMC-zs25 which I got at Costco on super sale, WAY less then the Amazon price! So clearly, we do not have the latest and greatest camera tech at our fingertips, and yet we still manage to take (I think) pretty good pictures for our blog.
What we have done is come up with some tips and tricks for taking good pictures with a point-and-shoot camera, and today I'm sharing my #1 tip for taking pictures with a blurred background. The above series shows you the progression from the traditional point-and-shoot photo on the far left taken right next to the subject with no zoom, to halfway zoomed out in the center, to the far right, which is a picture taken zoomed as far out as possible and standing far away. There is another trick you can use when taking detailed photos of a subject like food, that you can get very close to and not lose the shot. Now you should be able to take very close up pictures of things and your camera will naturally have a shallower depth of field! Before we begin, we want to emphasize that although the PowerShot cameras offer excellent performance, they are still non-DSLR cameras. The more challenge is the portrait photography or when you want to focus only the subject and blur the background. The successor to the very popular Nikon D3200, the D3300 is a powerful DSLR with a lot of features to improve your photos over those taken in Auto mode.
First, we'll give you a quick tour of the key controls, and then we'll explain how to use them for different effects. Starting at the top of the camera, you'll find a dial on the right side for a range of shooting modes. S – Shutter Priority: You set the shutter speed using the Command dial on the back of the camera, where your right thumb rests.
A – Aperture Priority: You set the aperture using the Command dial, and the camera sets the shutter speed. The D3300 offers a number of special Effects shooting modes, such as Super Vivid and Miniature.
If you decide to set the ISO manually, try to go no higher than 1600 for everyday shooting, and no higher than 3200 for low light and evening shooting. Using Aperture Priority again, go for a higher setting of f9 or greater to produce a deep depth of field. The D3300 has three light-metering modes, controlled from the settings menu that is accessed by pressing the "i" button.
This option pays more attention to the center of the image, but also considers the rest of the picture. Use this to have the camera measure just a small spot in the center of the image, ignoring the rest. Three settings — White Balance, Picture Control and Retouch — determine how colors appear in your photos. White Balance judges the overall color of the light in a scene in order to interpret colors accurately. Retouch is a better way to use color effects, as it applies them to a copy of the photo, leaving the original unaltered. Taking pictures of individual people is often the mainstay of general PR and editorial work. What I am going to look at is how to take a classic portrait shot, suitable for use as a PR image. Before you go on to try more elaborate or way-out methods of photographing people, at least manage to try to perfect the classic portrait. Most compact cameras automatically default to their wide-angle settings when you first switch them on. The solution is to go back until you are about six feet away from the person and then zoom in to fill the frame. Direct flash (or flash on camera) is not flattering and will give severe shadows and flare off the sitter’s nose, forehead, and chin. If you haven’t got an external flashgun turn your flash off by pressing the button with the small lightning symbol on your camera until you get the symbol that looks like a lightning with a line through it.

You can buy commercial reflectors, like the ones from Lastolite, or you can make your own from a large piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil. Steve Nichols is a professional photographer with more than 25 years experience in taking editorial and PR shots. We are always looking for more interesting and insightful photography tips and techniques to share with our readers.
I’m going to show you how take Christmas pictures of your children with a blurry background.
It means that your picture has a very shallow depth of field, so only a small area of your photo is actually in focus, and everything that is not on that plane of focus is blurry. You know you will be focusing on your subject, so you want to purposely put some space between your subject and the background that you want to blur out.
My Christmas tree needs to stay where it is, so I placed a chair where I wanted my kids to stand a good 10 feet away from the tree. It may take a few tried to get the light right for this type of picture, and most kids lose patience quickly if asked to sit through endless settings tweaks. Check if there is a night or low-light setting, and put your subject as far away from the tree as you can! Have your child hold their special ornament near their face where it is still in the light, and then you can take the sweet shot with them putting the tree up later. You won’t be able to take this kind of picture with your kids in it though, since you force the camera to unfocus significantly. It will obviously not look focused from your viewfinder, so you’ll have to take several in small increments to see how big those bokeh circles are getting.
Check out my tutorial about how to take the classic shot of your kids putting ornaments on the glowing tree at Let’s Lasso The Moon.
The light was coming mostly from above my kids, and it would be better to use a lamp or light that was all the way in front of the kids instead, to avoid under eye shadows.
You can also change the shape of the bokeh by cutting out a heart shape in a shield that you place over the lens, it worked for me and has a stunning effect!
Every year when we put ours up I turn the room lights off, take my glasses off and just stare at it for a while. There’s no way I can do a shot of my 4 month old in front of my tree and have him in focus like this! It will probably be easiest to take this picture in the daytime as well- the lights can still have that bokeh effect during the day! I know a lot about taking pictures of my little family, and want to help you take better pictures of your own family!
A good picture means that more people Pin or Re-Pin your post, which means more blog traffic. She's posed interestingly, the background is simple, and her eyes are the focus of the picture despite everything else going on with angles of her arms and legs.
The grass is the background is just as sharp and in focus as her face, which is kind of distracting and makes the picture look very flat and two dimensional. Back away from your subject until your camera can focus on your subject with the zoom all the way out.
You can set your camera to the "macro" setting, which looks like a little flower on most point-and-shoots. So, they might not be able to compare with cameras from the DSLR level in term of an ability to blur image background. The camera adjusts the shutter speed and aperture, and gives you the option to adjust a few other settings (which we'll explain). The one we found most useful was the Easy Panorama effect, which automatically stitches together multiple images you have shot into a wide, panoramic photo.
You adjust ISO manually by pressing the "i" button, then selecting ISO from the settings menu. An aperture of f5.6 or lower produces a shallow depth of field that blurs out the background, keeping focus on your subject. Having more of the scene in focus is also useful when shooting a group of people or any scene with important subjects at varying distances from your camera. Most of the time, you can leave this on Matrix mode, in which the camera judges the light in several parts of the image and picks the settings for an even exposure. Turn the Mode Dial to EFFECTS and then press the MENU button to access the Picture Control settings. This suits the image much better and avoids you having to crop off large amounts of wasteful image to the left and right of the subject’s head. I usually put a chair in place for the sitter and then set my camera up on a tripod or hold it so that I am at their eye level. Get them to sit at an angle of 45 degrees to you and then turn their head to look square on to the camera.
Better to use bounce flash if you have a external flashgun and bounce the light off the ceiling. Now mount the camera on a tripod and use the available light (if in a bright room) or use light coming through a window.
The secret is to get it quite close to your subject’s face, but not so close that it appears in the shot. The circular pattern of that background is called bokeh, and it happens all the time in good portrait photography because it helps you focus on subject instead of a distracting background. An aperture like 1.8 lets in a ton of light and creates a very shallow depth of field in the photo.
The tripod was just a few feet from the chair, allowing me to get a close-up of the child’s face. I placed my chair and tripod where I wanted them, and turned off the lights close to the Christmas tree. If it’s too dark, then you either need to turn on my more light in the room or raise your ISO to allow your camera to be more sensitive.

I think you can over use this effect, so find that happy place where the lights look like overlapping circles, but not so big that they lose definition. Hold the shutter halfway down to lock focus, and then quickly recompose your shot and click. I recently posted on my own blog, and linked you in the body so check it out, you may have more people coming your way.
Especially me (Jessica) who has been known to take 47 shots of a pancake on a plate because I just. I managed to do both of these shots above with my cheapish point-and-shoot camera, on Intelligent Auto (iA) mode. My camera's iA setting will do this automatically when I get too close to my subject, but for some cameras you will need to set this manually.
If you look above at the close up picture of my camera with the lens zoomed all the way, you will see that even Hilary's cell phone camera blurred the background a bit. But I know that for those of us with cheap cameras trying to make them work for a photo-heavy blog, having an arsenal of easy techniques under your belt is totally worth it!
If your PowerShot has no option for aperture adjusting, don't worry, simply use the macro mode (usually marked by a flower symbol).
Here are the main controls for the Nikon D3300 and how you can harness them to get better pictures.
You can raise the ISO in dim or dark lighting situations, but this produces graininess, called noise, in the images, so proceed with caution.
If Matrix isn't giving you the results you want, you can try Center Weighted or Spot Metering mode, or adjust the exposure compensation.
But in low light, photos can have an orangey cast that you can fix using a custom white balance. We recommend staying with the default SD (Standard) setting, as this produces the most-accurate and true-to-life colors.
Then select Retouch to apply effects like Monochrome and Color Sketch, plus Filter effects that can enhance some (or all) colors. It cuts out the 100s of pages typical of user manuals and dedicated photography books, and gets straight to the point.
The problem with a lot of digital cameras nowadays, especially the smaller compact ones, is that they have tremendous depth of field.
For a start, you have to get way too close to the person you are photographing to fill the frame. This can work well if you have a white (or light coloured) ceiling that is about eight feet high. At a push, you can use a large sheet of white paper or a white bin liner—try it it works! Any kind of camera can take advantage of this tip: even your point and shoot can create bokeh if you force enough space in there! That means my the Christmas lights are far away from my point of focus, which gives them a good chance of being beautiful bokeh circles. I left one light on very close to the my subject to light up their cute smiling face, while still keeping some of the glow of the Christmas tree in the background. This forces the camera to focus about 4-5 feet away, so if the tree is 10-15 feet away it should give you some nice bokeh. However, as you get more comfortable with photography, Manual mode can help you get difficult shots in which you want a particular effect that the camera can't execute on its own.
One thing I would like to better understand about the D3300 is why under extremely bright light it will use a higher-than-expected ISOs (~320)?
Make sure the scene is composed in the way you want to capture it and everything is in place. So whatever lens you have available, set the aperture to be as low a number as possible (which translated to the widest opening for light).
Stick a stuffed animal or something on the chair so you can fiddle with your light settings before your kids get their cheesy smile. There are many reasons for this, mostly having to do with the proximity of two 18-month-old tech curious toddler boys who are mostly covered in food or drool 90% of the time. And if you're looking for more tips on blogging or photography, you can always follow us on Pinterest to see some of the other awesome tricks we find from other bloggers! Then point the camera at a white or gray object, such as a piece of paper, and press the Shutter. If your subject is near to their background the chances are that it will be sharp too, which is very distracting. Just remember to switch back to Auto White Balance or measure a new white balance when you move on to a different setting. In one review for this model I note a comment that the camera in AUTO mode is set to assume the flash is ON regardless of whether it actually fires, and that zooming in when this is the case can result in blurry photos.
It is true to my experience that with the kit zoom lens, even in very bright light (not backlit), I'm having a horrible time getting the camera to focus short of leaving it in sports mode or mounting it on a tripod.
Does this suggest a faulty lens, faulty metering or both?One type of shooting scenario that seems particularly difficult with this camera pertains to shooting birds. This makes it nearly impossible to capture a bird in a tree in focus short of a completely unobstructed view. Unless the bird is sitting perfectly still and I use the center-point method, I don't get good focus shooting into a tree even when the subject is brightly lit.Does the aforementioned difficulty have to do with the fact that the D3300 apparently has only ONE cross-lined AF sensor (at the center)?
Generally I find that with any subject using any other AF method other than center point is lacking. Taking a bird in a tree off the center AF where the cross-link is located generally results in loss of focus quality!

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Comments to «How to take a portrait shot with blurred background bokeh»

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