Creative Photography Ideas for the Holidays

Holiday Lights Bokeh as Foreground, Background or Subject

‘Tis the season yet, again, this year, and although I’m never in the holiday spirit, especially this Covid-19 year, this past weekend I did my part in putting up decorations and lights. Then, looking at the lights through my lens, I discovered the many stories that they’re willing to tell.

Here are a few ideas for photographing the holiday lights and, thus, capturing their visual stories?

  • experience with various lenses – prime, macro, zoom, telephoto (and zoom in/out while dragging the shutter/long(er) exposure)
  • use compositional elements or the lights as compositional elements (framing, for ex.)
  • use selective focus – focus on the lights or not; in other words, use the lights as the subject of your image or as foreground or background bokeh

Brief Note: “Bokeh” comes from the Japanese word for “blur” and determines the appearance of the out-of-focus, blurry, parts of an image. Prime lenses, for instance, offer a good-quality bokeh–that’s why Sigma 105mm ART f1/4 is called “the Bokehmaster.”

As mentioned above, Bokeh can be noticed in the background or the foreground of an image; but it can also be, itself, the subject of an image.

Here are a few example of using holiday lights as foreground, background bokeh, as well as image subject:

Foreground holiday lights bokeh

Note: in this particular image, the foreground lights create a half-frame for the subject of this image, the car (represented by its headlights); that said, because the foreground lights are pretty bright and colorful, they could also be considered the subject; it ALL depends on the visual story told in the image

Christmas deco lights foreground bokeh. ©2020 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Christmas deco lights foreground bokeh. ©2020 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Background holiday lights bokeh: Same image as above, only focusing on the foreground

Christmas deco lights background bokeh. ©2020 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Christmas deco lights background bokeh. ©2020 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Bokeh as subject: Zoom in on the foreground bokeh, capture it as the image subject

Christmas deco lights foreground bokeh. ©2020 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
Christmas deco lights bokeh. ©2020 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved. [Note: also, notice the “onion-skin” bokeh (surface, texture of the bokeh) and the “cat’s eye” bokeh closer to the edge of the frame; more on that in an upcoming post]

Deco lights bokeh as compositional elements: Include holiday lights bokeh as compositional elements when capturing the subject; align the lights to frame the subject or as leading lines; look for shapes created by the holiday lights bokeh

NYC after sunset, seen through a foreground bokeh of Christmas lights. ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
NYC after sunset, seen through a foreground bokeh of Christmas lights. ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
NYC after sunset, seen through a foreground bokeh of Christmas lights. ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.
NYC after sunset, seen through a foreground bokeh of Christmas lights. ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Takeaway: This holiday season look at the lights through different lenses (prime lenses are some of the best), including through your smartphone lenses; you’ll discover a different, sometimes fascinating world that might surprise you!

Have fun preparing for this particular holiday season and stay safe.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

2 thoughts

    1. Oh, appreciate your kind words! I love experimenting with bokeh, selective focus, composition, etc. and did just that this past weekend, after putting up the lights. And, no, I don’t really like the holidays, I find them kinda depressing, especially in recent years, but they can offer new ideas for images and stories. Thank you again!

      Liked by 1 person

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