Photography Project 52: Week 35 – Photographing Christmas Tree Bokeh

1212_MFA_bokeh_031-Edit There were quite a few firsts for me with this project:  my first Pez dispenser, my first Beenie Baby (which my husband informed me lost its collectible value when I cut the tags off – how does he know stuff like this, but can’t seem to remember what’s for dinner?), and my first audible scream over broken chocolate.  Oh, and I also learned a few things about photographing the bokeh created by Christmas tree lights.

Unless you’re someone who delays in taking their tree down (you – and the people who love you – know who you are), you only have a couple of weeks left to give this a go.  Here are some tips:

  • Distance matters.  Changing the distance between your subject and the lights, as well as changing the distance between your camera and the subject, will change the density and shapes of the lights.  Compare the picture of the Nutcracker to the Santa Pez dispenser.
  • Tidiness is important.  If you decide to try a photo with a wine glass, or other beverage, pour the beverage through a funnel, preferably after you place the glass on the final surface.  Sloshing etc, will create extra work in post production.
  • Expect blowouts.  You will have to make choices with exposure.  I chose to blow out some of the highlights, and expose the subject darker than I normally would have.  I knew I could lighten selective areas up in post – but not recover large amounts of blown-out data.
  • The brighter the better.  During post- processing, I found I liked the images with bright highlights better.  So I tried to preserve those, especially when using creative techniques.

Here are my favorite images.  I had to include one of the broken chocolate.  It was a cute penguin with a bow tie, that I lovingly froze so it would not melt when I touched it.  As I was adjusting the bow on the present which it was placed, it fell and shattered on the floor.  There is still a large lost piece – which I hope not to find in a large sticky pool of goo.

1212_MFA_bokeh_004 1212_MFA_bokeh_048 1212_MFA_bokeh_045 1212_MFA_bokeh_043 1212_MFA_bokeh_037 1212_MFA_bokeh_034 1212_MFA_bokeh_031-Edit 1212_MFA_bokeh_028 1212_MFA_bokeh_025


  1. Jeannette Lakness-King

    Mary – What a great idea! I do so look forward to Wednesdays – always a creative twist with instructions and helpful hints that make me laugh out loud! Thanks to both of you for this years posts. Have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Anonymous

      JLK, thanks for the note. I think you are subscriber #1, so you have some cache with us. Hope you have a great holiday. Make photos and we would love to see them.

  2. Jesus Sousa

    Hi Mary and Peter, looks like the wine glasses were your most challenging subject matter, otherwise the other gifts looked great. I just saw a few reflections on the glass but I suppose
    it’s what you like is all that matters. By the way have a wonderful and safe holiday season, and
    can’t wait for 2013. Till we meet again, see you soon.

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