How to take Christmas lights photos with the bokeh effect

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From a pile of presents under a twinkling tree to a dog playing in the snow, one thing many Instagram-worthy festive snaps have in common is their bokeh background. Taken from the Japanese word ‘boke’ (ボケ), meaning a blur or a haze, bokeh is a photographic term for the aesthetic blur in you often see in the background of a photograph.

Often giving the image a pretty, dreamy quality while showcasing the object in the foreground, its the perfect technique to use on Christmas lights, whether you’re photographing a decorated tree at home or a string of outdoor lights on a busy street. Although this effect was once only possible with professional DSLR cameras, new high-tech smartphones such as the ASUS ZenFone 4 now have all the features you need to create beautiful bokeh effects with just your phone camera. Follow our step-by-step guide to start taking those dreamy, twinkling Christmas photos today!

1. Choose your setting

Fairy lights, a Christmas tree, a snowy street setting…there are plenty of places you can choose for a festive bokeh photograph. Whatever you decide, make sure that there’s something of interest in the foreground, which will be in focus compared to your lights in the background.

For an indoor setting, why not choose a pretty bauble, festive cocktail or even a family member for a flattering portrait? Outdoors options, on the other hand, could include a Christmas display on a decorated street or a jolly snowman with a wall of fairy lights behind.

2. Adjust the lighting

While bokeh effect photos taken during daylight can often look amazing, to really show off those pretty Christmas lights by getting the right kind of soft look and gentle contrast to your photographs it helps to lower the lighting or shoot at night.

The ASUS ZenFone 4’s superior light sensitivity and dedicated low light mode will make sure that the quality is still high even in lower light, and allow you to capture the perfect bokeh-style image. You can also alter the settings to make the most of the camera’s wide f.18 aperture for a short depth of field and a fast shutter speed to properly capture your setup.

3. Select the right camera settings

For a high-quality bokeh photograph, use the ZenFone 4’s first rear camera, with standard 25mm lens and a 12-megapixel sensor for large, sharp images. You can use the manual mode to alter ISO and shutter speed, or switch instantly to auto mode and let the camera choose the best settings for your environment.
Try to get 10-20 cms from the object and play around with the focus, making sure that the object in the foreground is sharp compared to your blurred bokeh background for maximum effect. Creating a bokeh portrait? Use portrait mode for a beautiful background effect behind a perfectly sharp portrait or object image.

4. Alter your images

Once you’ve tried out different settings, explored all the angles and taken your bokeh photos, you can take the effect even further using editing software or dedicated bokeh apps for Android phones. Free software such as Pixlr Editor and GIMP can help you add yellow or pink toned filters for a soft evening look and improve the contrast in your photo.

Insta Bokeh and After Focus give you additional options for blurring and fading the bokeh background. After that, all you need to do is save them all onto your generous 64 GB internal storage, and start sharing your envy-inducing photos with friends on your social media channels!