Story behind the photo - Christmas bauble bokeh

Use a bokeh-rich background for sparkle

Have you wondered how photographers make such a blown out picture of a Christmas decoration where the lights are de-focused and the subject is crystal crisp? Off course you have seen hundreds of Christmas tree bokeh shots, where the lights are turned into glowing circles of color. Why not use the same technique for a Christmas decoration rather than a tree? 

Canon EOF 7D. Focal length 50mm. f/1.8 for 5 sec at ISO-100. Manual Mode and Manual Focus.


Use a macro lens. If this is not available, any quick lens with f/2 or up can do. Make use of a coat hanger and attach the hanger o the Christmas tree on one end and the bauble on the other end of the hanger. Wait for the motion to stabilize.

In the mean time, bring on your tripod. You will gonna use it. Open it and set it up at the level of the bauble. 

I know you hate it, but set your camera mode to Manual - don't turn the ambient lights off yet.  Set your aperture in the range of f/2 to f/1.4 depending on your lens. Focus on the upper side of the bauble where that string is attached. When you have focus, turn that lens stabilizer and auto focus off. NOW turn off the ambient lights.

Take couple of test shots; your tree lights should now appear soft discs in the background. The larger the aperture, the more circular and soft the out-of-focus lights will appear. You can also use your camera depth of field preview button as you change the aperture value. 

Last, if you are happy with White Balance and composition, use your DSLR mirror lock-up feature for 100% stability. Set your camera to self-timer function and hit that shutter release button. 

Useful Tips

  • Use a piece of white card or kitchen foil to bounce light onto the bauble. I for example used my lighter torch to paint light during the exposure time.
  • Consider using mat baubles to prevent reflections
  • Thin of color combination (red with yellow lights or white bauble with blueish lights, etc.)

Merry Christmas and stay tuned for the next "Story behind the photo" series...