The most common – and easily fixable mistake all new photographers make when taking portraits.
I really really really love Christmas. I cheer up instantly pretty much from the 1st December or as soon as the fairy lights start going up all over the place. They’re such a lovely accent among the doom and gloom of the winter, I really couldn’t be without them.
But photographically speaking – if there is such a thing – they are great because they give you fabulous opportunities to get some beautiful BOKEH.
Bokeh is a real word ( I promise), it comes from Japanese and describes the light circles we can get on our photographs, usually in the background. Like the ones below ( all our students photos).
The great news is that they are actually not difficult to capture and they bring such a lovely festive feel to your photos. Follow our 3 steps and you’ll be bokeh-in all over your photos.
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.
1. Get your subject away from the lights
2. Get close to your subject
3. Zoom in on your subject
Good luck and a very happy Christmas from The Photography for Parents team!
Feast your eyes on more wonderful examples of bokeh from our students!