Photo tutorial: Fairy Christmas Lights Bokeh

Behind the Scenes of a Christmas Lights Photography Session

Are you a Christmas lover? It’s all about the excitement, anticipation, and planning for the big day. This tutorial will help you make your Christmas tree fairy lights sparkle. It’s a great way to celebrate and has a bonus: it’s a lot of fun!

What you’ll need

  • A wall or background of light colors
  • Many light sources with white cables (not green).
  • String, tacks, or a stand are all options to hang your lights.
  • A lens allows you to shoot at a wide aperture (lower f-stop number). This could be a prime lens like the 135mm F/2.0, 85mm F/1.8 or 50mm 1.8 (the fabulous fifty!).
  • Plenty of space is important because blurred effects are enhanced by the distance between the subject and the lights.
  • Ok! Now you know everything you need to create stunning Christmas lights photos. Before we get to the actual setting up of the shot, let’s first help you understand how to make the best background bokeh photos.

Background Blur

  • Background blur can be affected by these three things:
    1. Focal length
    2. Aperture
    3. Distance between background and subject

Focal Length

  • Your lens choice can have an impact on how Christmas lights look.
  • A longer focal length will reduce the background, which will increase the size and blur of the lights. The difference between these two images shot with a 50mm lens and one-shot using a 135mm focal length lens is evident.
  • However, a 50mm lens can still be used. It might be necessary to put more distance between the subject and background and use more light to fill the frame.

Adjustment of the Aperture

  • The most important element to capture beautiful bokeh with your Christmas twinkle lights photos is the aperture setting. The images below show the effects of different aperture settings.

Distance between Subject and Background

  • It’s quite simple. It’s quite simple. The blurrier the background is between your subject (and background), the better. So, allow this for when you set up your shot. Now, let’s get to the fun part!

Photograph Your Christmas Lights Shoot


  • The trick to capturing sparkling Christmas lights photos is aperture. First, set your camera to the widest aperture possible (lowest Fstop number)
  • If your camera is not set up for manual mode yet, you can adjust your aperture and allow the camera to balance the elements of manual exposure.
  • Why Use Manual Mode


  • This Christmas lights photography tutorial was shot against the grey wall of my patio. I didn’t want any furniture to be moved to make the space available. This shaded area is also perfect for portrait photography, as I know it to be soft and beautiful in the afternoon.
  • My subject was about 4m from the background. Be generous as the distance between your subject (and the background) affects blurred background.

Hang Your Lights

  • There are many ways to hang lights without a backdrop stand. You can hang a piece of string between 2 chairs or drape the lights over it.
  • No matter how you hang them or what method, make sure your background is covered with lights.

Take a test shot

  • After setting up the lights, I took test shots with my focus on the red throw rug to determine if they needed adjustment. This is a better way to test your shots than taking them with the children. They’ll be bored quickly and could easily get upset (yours, theirs).
  • After taking some test shots, I moved the lights around my stand until they were filled. This created the most beautiful Christmas lights bokeh.
  • Then, I was ready for the kids to come in and begin shooting!

How to Take Pictures of Christmas Lights Indoors

  • Are you looking for Christmas lights, bokeh? To give me a nice sidelight, I used a Speedlight inside an umbrella at 45 degrees to my subject. This setup was repeated with my little boy indoors because it was too cold out. These settings were what I used:
    • Aperture f/3.2
    • Shutter speed 1/160
    • ISO 500
    • Flash in M mode at 1/16th power setting
    • This shot can be taken without a Speedlight. You don’t need one if you don’t have one. Instead, use natural light and think of your umbrella/Speedlight combo as a window.


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