Brighten up your portraits this winter with colourful street light bokeh!
When we talk about portrait photography we often discuss how best to use natural light, for example using the sun as a backlight. Here, we’ve got an alternative technique that involves shooting in the evening and using street lights instead of the sun.
If you ever shoot with a wide aperture you’ll notice that the area around your subject appears soft and blurred; this is known as bokeh.
If you shoot a subject in front of lights you’ll see that they too become blurred. Adding bokeh to images is a popular technique in many types of photography – especially portraits – and is a great technique for this time of year when incorporating lights.
First you need to find an area that has a lot of different lights; this could be street lamps, lights from an office block or even shop lights. Select an ISO of around 800 when shooting in low light and in aperture priority mode choose the widest aperture that your lens has. Prime lenses such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8STM or Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A are ideal for this technique as they offer extremely wide apertures of f/1.8 and f/1.4
Make sure that you’ve got autofocus turned on. Position your model with the lights behind them, then focus on the model; you can of course use manual focus if preferred. You should start to notice the lights becoming small, soft spheres of colour. If they don’t look quite right ask your model to step forward; this will create more depth between the model and the lights. As you’ll want the light on your model’s face it’s a good idea to get them to stand under the street light or you could use an LED light such as the Manfrotto Lumimuse Series 3LED.
If you don’t fancy heading outdoors or to a busy area you can also do this technique with fairy lights or any other source of light at home; the more lights the better! Hang them somewhere in your house or even in your back garden and you can get some creative portraits of your friends and family.