So two years ago, back in Nov 2011… we did a Holiday Backdrops (how to) …
and it went viral madness!
This year.. we are bringing it back, but just a tad different, and answering many questions from the original DIY. This is a SUPER EASY & INEXPENSIVE photography prop for the upcoming holiday season. It doesnt require any purchase aside from your light strands. And… it’s super darling & easy to do on your own. Im going to break it down like before, but this time using a darker backdrop.
First of all.. you will need a few boxes of christmas lights… again, we got ours at the dollar store. I snatched up 8 boxes, total $8! I bought the dark/green strand lights, because I am going to be using a dark wall/backdrop for my images. I wanted the lights & bokeh to really pop! I found them in the holiday section, on a bottom shelf.. I actually had to ask someone where they were, the boxes are sooo small I originally missed them.
Then I strung them across my backdrop stand… which was pressed up against my backdrop wall. I have a chalk paint wall in my studio, which I LOVE. I wanted to shoot on my chalk wall so the lights would really pop and be sparkly for my shoot.
Its a messy strand of lights… plugging one into the next strand, but dont worry, messy is actually a good thing for this prop. It gives more random twinkles in the end product.
I placed my subject pretty much right in the middle of my wall of lights and where I will be shooting. In my studio, I use strobe lights (Alien B 400, set at 1/16). I have my light slightly off to my left when I shoot. (yes my studio is a prop carnival, and yes those are a plethora of floor drops that I leave out for quick use, lol).
I will list all supplies below… so you’ll have full break down of what you see in use.
Now… I set my camera, manual mode of course:
Aperture/F-stop 2.0 (this is what gives you the great bokeh)
Again, my light is an Alien B400, set to 1/16…
and I shoot…
Now … my first image above is shot in close range… I am putting my subject closer to my camera so I can get a nice head shot. THIS is where you get the best bokeh & light affects from the strands of light. The closer you are to your subject, the more sparkly your bokeh will be ,and the less light strands.
The other images, I backed up a bit so I can get more of her body & pose. Still… great bokeh (thanks to my 2.0 aperture) but now you can see a bit of the light strands (which is perfectly fine by me).
To see the original DIY, on a light wall/backdrop, click >>> Holiday Backdrops (original) <<<
What I used:
Canon Mark iii DSLR Camera
50mm 1.4 lens (a 1.8 would be grand also, and its an inexpensive purchase around $100)
Pocket wizard TRANSCEIVER, which will trigger my flash
Alien B400 flash strobe & stand, with Alien Bee medium soft box
Clamps for backdrop & holding lights in place
Christmas Lights, from dollar store (got mine at the Dollar Tree store)
Cute holiday halo from TJ Props Shop
While you’re at it… convert an image to black & white. Its just as stunning, and even a bit more dramatic than it’s color counterpart.
What are your camera settings??
I set my camera to a 2.0 aperture. This is what helps give that great bokeh. The “wide open” fstop helps achieve this look by giving a harder focus on the subject and softer on the background.
What is bokeh?
Its the bursts of light you see in images, in the out-of-focus areas of an photograph. Its in the “blur” of the background & twinkly lights themselves.
Read more at Wikipedia
Why can you not see the light strands in some images?
This has to do again with the aperture (f-stop). The lower (more wide open) the aperture, the softer focus on the background. The close you are to your subject, the softer the lights and less of the strands you see. When you step back and take in more of your subject, it also takes in a tad more of your background.
Can you do this with natural or strobe light?
YES! I use strobes. But you can do the same with natural light. Our original post uses only natural light. (see link above).
What if I dont have a wall to shoot on, can I use a backdrop?
OF COURSE! Set up a seamless backdrop, cream for the lights with white wire, or a darker grey/black for the green wired lights.
Do I need DSLR camera, or can I use my “point & shoot”?
Yes, you need to do this with a dslr. Not only for the image quality, but because most (all?) P&S cameras do not have an aperture that meet close to a 2.0. Most P&S are 5.0-8.0 at a MINIMUM, and that will not give you the proper blur to achieve the above look.. they will just look like christmas lights.
And… that is our new DIY Holiday Lights Backdrop Tutorial!!
Any more questions…. just ask!
Enjoy the season, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!