For the last 12 days we have been running a Free Christmas Photography Bootcamp with our followers. We have taken them through a number of different techniques and concepts particularly useful when preparing for Photographing the Big Day. We covered everything from photographic and specifically Christmas StoryteIling, capturing the magic of Christmas Lights, Christmas decorations, the glowing tree, yummy Christmas food and preparation for the main event. has been an absolutely awesome experience with scores of people posting, chatting, getting advice and feedback in our Facebook group – my Facebook feed has been ablaze with all their brilliant photos.
If you missed out on it, I’m sorry, but here is a little consolation. 3 techniques from our Bootcamp, illustrated by our students’ own photos.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas from Photography for Parents!
Before go go any further, make sure your camera is set right:
If you’re shooting on auto: set your camera to Portrait or High Sensitivity.
If you’re shooting in semi-auto or manual mode : set your aperture to the widest available setting ( smallest number you have) and ( unless you;re using tripod or something else where you can just set your camera steady by itself) up your ISO to 800 – 1600 ( or until you’re able to get a shutter speed above 1/60s).
If possible, try to make sure that the subject you’re photographing is facing a window or another source of light.
To make bokeh as attractive and as effective as possible, we are essentially trying to throw them out of focus as much as possible. And here is your 3 step plan to achieve it.
Step 1. Distance to the lights
The closer your lights are to your subject, the more in focus they will be. So to give yourself a chance of getting it right, move your subject a little distance from the lights.
Step 2. Distance to your subject.
The further you are from the point you are focusing on, the more everything in the frame will be in focus. Easy way to test it – grab your camera and hold one arm in front of your lens. Take a picture focusing on your hand. Now without moving an inch from where you are or changing anything on your camera, focus on something a bit further away. If you compare the two pictures, you’ll see that one has comparatively much more blur in the background than the other.
Step 3. Zoom in
The more you zoom in on your subject, the more you compress the entire space in your frame ( trust us on it) and the more your lights will be thrown out of focus. So use as much zoom as you can in the space you’re in – longer zoom will require you to be physically further away from your subject or it won’t let you focus. Yes, I know in the step above we made a point of saying – get close to your subject – this means, get as close as you can with your zoom stretched out. Try to zoom in so much that your subject occupies at least half the space in the frame.
HOW TO CREATE STARBURST EFFECT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
In order to create this Starburst effect, you need to make the camera ‘squint’ – you need to close down the aperture on it ( that’s the size of the opening in your lens) as much as you can
Aperture: aim towards the narrower end of your aperture your camera can actually achieve – F16, F22 should work great. If you have a bridge camera, you may not appear to have the same range – in some cases your Aperture can go only as far as F8, but try it on your narrowest setting anyway, you might be surprised with your results.
Shutter speed: When you narrow down your aperture, you are naturally extending the exposure time ( shutter speed) so you will need to make sure that your camera is either on a tripod, or steadied on another surface, preferably cushioned from vibrations ( a little bean bag or a small bag of rice can be useful here if you haven’t got a tripod). For best results I’d recommend using a remote trigger, or setting your camera on a self-timer to minimise any potential ‘shake.
ISO : You want the ISO to be LOW – if the camera is steady and your lights are not going anywhere, you might as well get the best possible quality. Setting our ISO high here would just produce a grainy image, whereas you want a clear star shape.
Focus: When focusing your camera, don’t aim it straight into the light, but rather onto a solid element it’s mounted on – you’ll get a more accurate focus as the strong light can sometimes confuse your AF.