Twinkle Light Bokeh Tutorial!

Its that time of year! December is finally here! Christmas cards are starting to roll in the mail! I have been getting tonnes of emails to do a post on the Twinkle lights with a pull back.

I think I had more emails abut this images than any other so I thought iT would be great to share with you how I did it!

So here you go!

the first image is a pull back of icicle twinkle lights hung with clamps off my backdrop stand against Seemless paper. In this case I used bone, but I also love the effect of white.

But whay you really want to know is how to achieve those great big orbs of light.

It all has to do with your Aperture ( well that and depth of field & distance from subject  too)  Here is the first example:

I photographed Mr Bear at F 3.2 – the balls of light are pretty small and you can still see some of the strings

the next was at F 1.4 – you can see how much bigger they got by opening up.

I wasnt getting the desired result  I wanted so I got closer to mr Bear and Tada!  ( I did shoot this at 1.4, and with my lens prefer to shoot around F2)

I also added the sweet heart who joined me in the studio.  Who I photographed at F2 🙂

Hope this helps you achieve beautiful bokeh!!!


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  1. ZuzanaH on December 8, 2011 at 12:12 am

    oh Lisa, thanks for this perfect tutorial, looks so amazing!!! Hugs from Slovakia

  2. Virgila Reynolds on December 8, 2011 at 12:30 am

    I did this about a week ago, but yours looks 10xs better than mine. YOUR AMAZING!!

  3. Bec on December 8, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I tried this yesterday but because I have floor to ceiling whole wall windows you couldn’t even see the light from the bulbs. Should I darken where the lights are so they stand out more?

  4. Sofia on December 8, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Hi Lisa,

    Can you share the exact settings inclusing ISO /WB/Shutter Speed and are you using natural light from a window as your main light or a strobe?

    At F2, was this handheld or on a tripod? Lens?

    Thanks! 🙂

  5. Vida on December 8, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Beautiful end result. One question…how far was the camera placed from the subject and how far was the subject from the backdrop? Thank you for sharing your talent and the tutorial. Looove your site!

  6. Kelsey Wilson on December 8, 2011 at 2:48 am

    thanks so much I have been trying to achieve this for weeks! I was experimenting today actually and I was wondering how far your subject is away from the backdrop? thanks!

  7. Marie on December 8, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Gorgeous as always! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  8. angel pope on December 8, 2011 at 4:25 am

    By the looks of it (catchlights) you used a softbox. I’m having a hard time figuring out getting that bokeh with flash (how to set my aperture that wide open with strobes due to high sync limits)…any advice??????

  9. Diane on December 8, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Absolutely beautiful Lisa! Thanks so much for all the time and energy you put into sharing your talents. It is a real pleasure to not only enjoy the artistic qualities of your photos but to also gain a little insight into the science behind them. You never fail to leave me awestruck. So much work you have done to post this, only to leave us more hungry than ever for more!

  10. Jill Byrd on December 8, 2011 at 5:39 am

    So beautiful! I’ve always wondered how this was done and attempted it with Alaina at home, but didn’t really get the effect I wanted. I am excited to try again with your info Lisa! Thanks!!

  11. Irina on December 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I also have the same question that Sofia asked above. If you did use natuaral light in this tutorial, can you explain how to achieve this look using studio lights? Thanks!!!

  12. Ashley on December 14, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Thank you so much for all of the tips! It was really helpful. Once I figured out the ISO I was able to get the look I wanted and turned my images into my Christmas cards!!

  13. Shannon on December 17, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Great job, thanks for the info!

  14. Brenda Cook Young on August 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Love it

  15. Sarah Pemble on August 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm


  16. chantell on September 14, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Hi love this pic i have a cannon 600d and it will only let me go as low as f4 am i doing something wrong

    • lisa on September 14, 2012 at 5:38 am

      Hi Chantell,
      It will be your lens that determines how low of an f-stop you can have. If you are using a kit lens, my guess is f4 is the widest aperature you can get. If you want to be able to ‘shoot wide open’ – and inexpensive lens is the Canon 50mm 1.8 (around $125 I believe…CDN…cheaper in the US)

  17. Tracy A Smith on September 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks for shring this….great info.

  18. Wendy Temples on November 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Are you using strobes to light the subject?

  19. Terra Lemon on November 7, 2012 at 7:21 pm


  20. Carly Blake on November 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Beautiful! I'm considering getting a 50mm soon. Is there a massive difference between 1.4 and 1.8?

    • Andrew Lipsett on November 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      It's a small difference.

    • Joel Todd on November 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm

      There are some big differences. Price. Light gathering. Bokeh

    • Kellie Schonfeld on November 8, 2012 at 2:07 am

      Just get one! Whatever you get you'll love it! It's my favorite lens by far!

    • Fritz F on November 8, 2012 at 5:32 am

      The difference is only .4, I would not call that massive. I guess with two english teachers as parents math was not stressed while growing up. lol

    • Carly Blake on November 25, 2012 at 5:05 am

      Funny Ryan

  21. silvia on December 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Lisa, amo su trabajo, sensibilidad y buen gusto.
    Gracias!, Silvia

  22. Lisa Maria on July 25, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    So beautiful post and nice capture shoot. You work so professionally. This tutorial is so helpful to me. Thank you so much.

    • Lisa on July 26, 2018 at 4:40 am

      I’m so glad this was helpful to you!

  23. Emily Maddison on September 4, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    Wonderful photography. Nice tutoial and so helpful.

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