Experimenting with bokeh

For my birthday this year, I received a Canon Rebel T3i from my dad. I’ve always been interested in photography, and I really wanted to take good pictures of Arya. I know I’m not a professional by any means (“oh man, I got an awesome camera, this means I’m a pro now right?”), but I’m working at getting better. Regardless, the pictures it takes are much better than the ones I’d been taking with my phone, and because of that I feel much better about putting them in scrapbooks.

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One technique that I’d been interested in trying is bokeh. Wikipedia describes it as “the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur/ in out-of-focus areas of an image, or ‘the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light.'” Or, as I like to describe them, shots with those pretty balls of light in low-light scenes with the subject in the foreground in focus. We put up our Christmas tree in a new place this year, and it’s the only light source in that room. I kept looking at it wanting to try taking pictures of it, and last night I finally got around to it. None of the pictures came out good, but some are cute, so I thought I’d share them. :) I started out with shots of the full tree like you can see at right. What you can’t really see in that picture? That blob in the bottom right corner… is the baby. Yeah, not so much on the lighting. That’s something I never figured out, unfortunately, but after I turned our dining room light on, it was a weeeeee bit better. Only a wee. Kind of.

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The colors are still pretty awful but at least one of these is in focus. I’m sure I can fix the colors in Photoshop but damned if I know what to do. I suppose I kind of know how to do it, but I wouldn’t even know what my goal would even be. Like, okay, okay, brightness… too much orange… level out the colors… something something look at me try to sound smart… Damn it, I just use PS to doodle! Blargh. In any case, the bokeh still wasn’t quite right, and her bouncer just took up too much of the shot. So I stuck her in the bumbo and moved her closer to the tree.

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Oh, what I would give for this shot to be clear. I fumbled around with the settings for a bit trying to get anything to look right, but I just couldn’t get it right. At this point I also realized that trying to take bokeh pictures in the dark with a squirmy baby just… wasn’t the best idea. My tripod didn’t go low enough, either, so I was left to use a stack of books. The bokeh wasn’t really right still, either. I figured out I just needed to play with the focus more and –

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oh crap she’s eating the tree

IMG_7930 Ahem. So since my camera couldn’t achieve the right settings to make the background blurry and keep Arya in focus without holding the camera close enough to smack her in the head, I moved her back. This seemed like a good idea… at first. I finally figured distances out, and the bokeh were looking pretty nice. Of course, the lighting was still crap, but at least now it was looking halfway decent. Now if there was a way to make babies make cute faces instead of the silly ones like the photo featured at left, then we’d be gravy. I mean, that’s what you’d think, right?

Naaaah, that’d be too easy. Things like this with babies are never easy.

Once I was at a good distance, I tweaked the settings a bit more and ended up only being able to make the effect work well by having the camera fairly close to Grabby Baby. This was all fine and well until she realized there was a shiny right in front of her. That’s when things started to… Well, here. I’ll just show you.

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I just love the first one in the second row. “Ahhhh! Demon baby!!” And the third. Oh god, so much drool.

So really, in the end I think the experiment was successful, at least in getting silly baby pictures with bokeh in the background. The tree DOES look pretty, after all. And Arya is, as always, super adorable. It’s just that, together, they don’t really fit. When my thoughts after taking pictures include “man, the cats would be easier to shoot”, that’s a sign that things did not really go as expected. Honestly, though, I had fun (and so did Arya, don’t get me wrong – cameras are rather tasty), and I’m glad I did it. I can only get better with experience, after all, and this was… good experience. :)

Here’s the rest of the album, if you’re interested. There’s not many more pictures there, and most of the ones I didn’t post are just more with bad lighting, but there it is.

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