How To Take Gorgeous Bokeh Christmas Tree Pictures

Hey everyone (does that sound familiar?)! Thanks for the love and sweet words on my video. Y’all are seriously TOO nice. :) And just as giggly as I was in my video, today I am more giggly and giddy because I finally got some good bokeh shots of our Christmas tree.  You know, those little lights you see in the background almost floating around and bubble-like? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about these:

Bokeh Christmas Tree

Now, I’m not a “professional photographer” or anything, but I do know a little bit about Bokeh and that it’s super popular around this time of year because a lot of people have their Christmas trees out.  And it’s the perfect way to experiment with bokeh.  It’s sort of…magical.

What you really need to do is just sit and play with your camera after you read my post.  I will tell you what settings I used on my camera, a Canon Rebel, so you can try those same settings too.

In that image above, I was just focusing on that wintery birdhouse which is on our breakfast bar, and the Christmas tree is literally right behind it. I even edited that pic and made it mostly black and white except for the birdhouse which was kind of fun.

Before I get ahead of myself, this is what I used and what settings etc. One of the most important things though is the lens.  I used my 50mm which I got for Christmas from my mom last year and love.  It has a really low f-stop which allows for pictures like this, and ones with really blurry backgrounds.  It’s a great lens for right around $100. Put it on your wish list.

Items and Settings used:

  • Canon Rebel DSLR camera
  • 50mm lens
  • Camera setting in manual mode: ISO: 400 / Aperture: f/1.8 / Shutter Speed: Either 1/13 or 1/20 for all pics.

Now like I said, what worked for me may not work exactly the same for you, but this should give you a good starting point.

First, all you need to do is focus on your object like your kids, or whatever. You can even put your feet out in front of you, focus on them and have your tree in the background. You will have to play with the distance because you get different bokeh sizes when your object is closer to the tree or further away.  For all of the shots I am about to show you my kids (and the birdhouse) were maybe just 5-8 feet away from the tree.

Once you have your object ready and the tree in the background, press the camera button down half way to focus the camera on your subject only (do not focus it on the Christmas tree) and then just snap away. It’s really VERY simple.  Don’t be afraid to change your settings.  I used these same settings at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. You can tell which ones were done at night, but they are still pretty.

Bokeh Photo

If they are coming out too dark, try raising your ISO to 800 to get a brighter picture. You of course can use a tripod too, but since I was photographing kids (which do not stay perfectly still) I opted not to. :)

But that’s really all there is to it! If I can do it, you can do it. I promise. I think the bokeh shots make such a unique photograph. It’s just pretty bright bubbles floating around. :)

Now enjoy the rest of the pics. And yes, I love my kids and want to show them off…and my bokeh. :)

Settings again for all pics: Manual mode: ISO: 400 / Aperture: f/1.8 / Shutter Speed: Either 1/13 or 1/20 for all pics.

Bokeh Christmas Tree

Bokeh Christmas Tree

Baby Bokeh

Bokeh Picture

Bokeh Photo

Bokeh Christmas Tree

So cool right? I just love them! It’s kind of addicting though once you start taking pictures.  I couldn’t put my camera down the other night. But aren’t those cheeks the sweetest? So sqeezeable and pinchable! :)

If you do not have a 50mm lens with a low f-stop, I am not sure what results you would get.  I will have to try my kit lens (18-55mm) and see what it does and update this post.  I’ll keep you posted!

SO, have you ever tried taking pics like this? Are you a bokeh pro? Never heard of bokeh? I hadn’t until I started reading blogs, of course. :)

Hope this post helped you! If so you should pin for future reference so you’ll never forget. :) Sharing this post at Sarah’s Christmas Tree Party.



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  1. Can’t wait to try your tricks!

  2. Your pictures are fabulous!! A new camera is on my wishlist!!! I really need one so I can take better pictures for my blog. I am pinning this one for later!

  3. I love your website and this tutorial. But I am totally clueless when it comes to my camera. Do you know if it would work with my Canon Powershot S3 IS ???? I have practically studied my manuel and it doesn’t seem to help :(

    • Hey Wendy, I have no idea about the powershot. If you are able to change the settings in manual mode, you could try it and see what happens!

    • I have the s5is and I just tried it…. I could be doing it wrong, and I don’t have the special lens, but it did not work for me. The lights do get a little bigger orb, but without the lens I imagine it’s the best I’ll get. With the lens you’d probably be golden.
      For the buttons, first switch to manual, then use the thumb pad on the back to adjust the f stop and aperture numbers on the bottom of the screen. mine has an ISO button right next to the viewfinder, click it and click again until it stops on the ISO you want.
      Hope that helps.

      • I take it back. I just adjusted the aperture down to 1/4 and it appears to work much better. I think I need to try again tomorrow when there is more daylight.

  4. I love Bokeh pictures!

  5. Gorgeous, your girls are gorgeous and the photos beautiful. After playing around in Illustrator all day, this is something fun and new I’m off to try.

    Thanks for the tips, I don’t have a SLR camera but I’m able to do manual settings, so this will be interesting.

    Hugs, Lori m

  6. What beautiful pictures and your children are adorable!!!! I have the same camera and my son bought me that lens for my birthday so I am going to give this a try! Thanks for sharing. : )

  7. I will have to give this a whirl tomorrow!

  8. My Christmas present is a Canon Rebel and that lens and now you have me EVEN more excited than my kids for Christmas to get here! Thanks for the tip, your children and pictures are beautiful and I will definitely be trying to recreate this effect. What editing software do you like to use?

    • Thanks so much Stacey you’re going to have so much fun! I have a mac so I use Aperture and really like it. For my graphic images and stuff and fun effects I use pic monkey (which is free online). :)

  9. That is really cool. I am off to try it! Thanks for this post.

  10. Just beautiful! I love the close up of your daughter with the candy cane. So darn cute! I am going to give these tips a try–if I can get Rachel to hold still long enough that is. :)

  11. I attempt to follow SO many blogs, so I was trying hard to say “no” to yours, just because of time-nothing personal!, but you easily “sucked me in” with these photos of your kids! Absolutely awesome pics! Thanks!

  12. Love your bokeh shots! I just got the 50mm lens for my birthday this year and haven’t tried any bokeh shots yet but I did get a few last year with my 18-55mm lens and it still worked. Same process as you did with the 50mm but the autofocus has to kick in really well to get the same effect. Off to go play with my camera and the tree! :)

  13. Your kids are adorable! I adore Christmas tree bokeh. It’s so festive.

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  15. Your photos are simply gorgeous! I wish I had seen this post before I took my Christmas tree down, I would have loved to have given this a go! I will definitely try my hand at this next year!

  16. This is nice. I end up just using either the automatic setting or the face beautifer setting. I really should read all my directions. My subject that I take a lot of pics when I am around her is my granddaughter. I have around 500 different shots of her.

  17. I just got a Rebel T5i and several lenses! Super excited but it’s a steep curve from my (pretty good) point&shoot. I do understand the triangle – ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Thanks for the tutorial. I’m able to capture a photo like this with lots of bokeh, but only if my kids sit perfectly still. I find any movement at all and I need to shoot at 1/30 or 1/40 even and then the shot is too dark.

  18. Hi, I was admiring your boken photos im so in love with them I bought a canon rebel T3 and can’t seem to get the shot just right so i figured i’d buy a new lense so i went with the 40mm f2.8 but my question is, do you know why it won’t focus when i try to use the Auto Focus

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