Today I am going to share with you my DSLR settings for getting a shot of my Christmas tree all lit up and how to get that nice bokeh effect with the Christmas lights!
Here is a photo I took of my Christmas tree the other night. No other lights were on in the room. The lights from the tree were my only source of light.
So settings… ISO: 6400. I cranked the ISO up knowing I was going to need as much light as possible! However now looking at my shutter speed, I probably could have brought the ISO down a notch (or maybe two) and went with a slower shutter speed. This would have made a less grainy picture.
My f-stop was set at 1.4 which means that my aperture was high. I was shooting wide open, again I was trying to let in as much light as possible.
Shutter speed – again, I could have done with a slower shutter speed because there were no moving subjects in my photo. But it works at 1/400.
Here is another one from a different angle:
Settings: 1/160 ƒ/1.4 ISO 1000 50 mm
For this shot (above) I did decide that I didn’t need my ISO cranked up to 6400. I dropped it down to 1000, which means the quality of the picture is better. Less noise or grain to it.
I kept my f-stop at 1.4 – again I am trying to get in as much light as possible.
My shutter speed is at 1/160. This is because my ISO was lower, meaning not letting in as much light. My shutter also dropped to a lower number (slower) to make up for the lower ISO. My goal was to let in as much light into my camera as possible. In this photo vs. the top one, I allowed my shutter to let in more light not the ISO. The result is a less grainy picture. Of course – you can only allow your shutter to get so slow. Very slow shutter speeds will cause blur, especially with moving subjects!
So your goal here is LIGHT. Three things let in light on your camera: ISO, f-stop and shutter speed. I knew I wanted to shot with a high aperture (or low f-stop). I set the f-stop as low as my lens would let me. (f-stop settings are determined by your lens not your camera!) . So getting the best picture is a matter of adjusting ISO and shutter speed up and down, until you can find a spot where they are giving you the best quality picture. My camera can go up to an ISO of 6400 – but I also know that those picture are most likely to turn out grainy. So if I can lower my ISO down a bit and use a slower shutter speed, I get a picture with the same amount of light coming in, but better quality.
So how to get that Bokeh effect? You know – where the lights in the background look a bit blurry.
Settings: 1/200 ƒ/1.4 ISO 1000 50 mm (above)
Settings: 1/200 ƒ/1.4 ISO 1000 50 mm
Both photos above have the same setting… the trick with bokeh is to have the light source (in my case the Christmas tree) behind your subject and out of the focus area. So it becomes part of the background. So in this case I had a shallow depth of field. My bowl of balls was not placed directly in front of tree. It was on a table and the tree was several feet behind the table. The bokeh comes from setting a low f-stop (or high aperture). Although I used the same f-stop number for this picture as in the tree pictures above, the difference is my focus. In the picture above, I focused my camera on the decorative balls – leaving the Christmas tree in the back ground nice and blurry. And while I used decorative ball for my subject here – you can do this with people! Have them sit not right up close to the tree – but a few feet ahead with the lit up tree in the background and keep your focus on the people vs the tree. If your camera (lens) is having a hard time keeping focus on the right thing…take a few steps back from your subject and try again. Or take your camera off of Auto focus and put it on manual focus and actually move the lens to find the exact focus point you are looking for.
Here are a few more pictures I took:
Settings: 1/250 ƒ/1.4 ISO 6400 50 mm.
This picture is a little grainy also – because I had my ISO so high. But I like it anyway. Again I could have lowered the ISO and gone with a slower shutter for a better picture. A little, but not much bokeh in this picture because my subject (Ethan) is sitting to close to the tree.
Settings: 1/400 ƒ/1.4 ISO 6400 50 mm (above)
Settings: 1/30 ƒ/1.4 ISO 1000 50 mm
Christmas is a great time to get your camera out of auto mode and start playing with the settings! Twinkle lights are the perfect subject to practice on!
I hope this helps you! Please let me know if you have any questions!
For more photo tips, visit my Photography page!
In case you wanted to know: