At this time of the year when the days in my part of the world are so very short, I’m grateful for the holiday lights. I tend to put my tree up as early as is considered decent and I’m always thrilled when the city lights up each year for Christmas Lights Across Canada.

The first holiday season after I got my DSLR I became a little obsessed with capturing Christmas light bokeh. Everyone loves a bit of bokeh, right? After having seen it in others’ photos, I remember googling it and then experimenting with my own tree. This year, after seeing so many great light bokeh photos on Instagram and in the Mobile Monday Flickr pool, I decided to experiment again, this time using my iPhone.

A quick googling let me know that there are pretty much three ways to get light bokeh with an iPhone: app, macro lens, and what I call “fast fingers”.

For the “fast fingers” method, you take advantage of the split second that the iPhone takes to focus and shoot before it locks in. Alternatively, you can lock the camera’s focus on something in the foreground. If the foreground item is far enough away from the lights, it should produce the bokeh. I must admit that while I’ve given this method a go a few times, I have yet to produce results that I’m happy with.

While I work on my finger speed I turned to the app store for some help. There are a number of apps out there that will help you create bokeh in your photos. There are simple apps available, like RealBokeh, that allow you to “draw” a bokeh effect on your photo, like this:


For the photo above I took a dark background shot (with my hand over the lens) and then chose my bokeh colours, size and shape in the app. After that I just traced across the screen with my finger to bring the bokeh out. Not terribly sophisticated but I don’t mind it. (RealBoke app — FREE)

For more sophistication there are apps like Big Lens. Big Lens has a camera in-app or lets you import a photo from your camera roll. It then lets you set the area of focus in the shot, pick the aperture, focus level, lens shape and even offers a few filters. The shot below is one that I processed first in VSCOCam then ran through Big Lens.


I don’t have a macro lens for my iPhone (Hi Santa, are you listening?!) but from what I understand, they make getting bokeh a cinch. Here’s one that Lindsey took with her Olloclip macro lens.

Christmas light bokeh taken with Olloclip

Looking through the Mobile Monday Flickr pool it seems that I’m not the only lover of light bokeh. I’m not sure how these photographers got the effect, but I know they’ve done it gorgeously.
connect the dots . . .

 By Juliana Longiotti


By jordan parks

Ho ho ho. #instamuse #olloclip

By katlighnter

Please keep sharing your light bokeh photos as we CELEBRATE together all month on Instagram and in the Mortal Muses Flickr pools. And if you nail the fast fingers trick feel free to pass along tips in the comments!

Speaking of the comments, commenting on Mortal Muses posts this week will give you a chance to win. Some of my fellow muses have already announced their giveaways: Meghan is giving away some expired film, Holly is offering a place in Tammy Strobel’s Everyday Magic e-course, Lindsey has some wonderful iPhoneography gadgets for you, and Kirstin and Justine each have fantastic books to give away.  Wow!

Today it’s my turn. My giveaway is somewhat off topic for this post but nonetheless close to my heart. By leaving a comment on this post you are entered to win a box of the new Impossible Project PX680 Gold Edition. Last year’s gold frame film was one of my favourite Impossible films yet and I’m sure that the new edition, complete with Color Protection, is just as great. We’ll announce all the winners on December 25th.

And if you’re interested in tips on shooting your Gold Edition or other instant film in winter weather, I’ll be talking about that on Film Friday December 28th.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays.

Debra ~ Manifeisty