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A Quick Comparison of Aperture & Bokeh

Here’s a super quick experimentation I did with aperture & bokeh. Learn how to add a special flare onto your photos to make them even more beautiful!

Cupcake Photo with Bokeh

How to Get The Best Bokeh Lens Reaction

When Jenny and I were taking pictures of cupcakes at Disney, we grabbed a table by the giant Christmas tree and positioned the cupcakes so the beautiful tree lights & decorations were the background for our photos.

Below is a quick comparison of the different apertures we used and the different types of bokeh it produced.

Christmas at Disney
Photo via Jenny

First, here’s the Christmas tree we used as our background.

Christmas at Disney

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
f/2.8
1/160 sec
ISO 100

Christmas at Disney

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
f/4.5
1/125 sec
ISO 200

Christmas at Disney

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
f/5.6
1/125 sec
ISO 200

Which one do you prefer? I normally prefer shooting at 2.8 or below, but I really like how the tree turned out in the third picture, at 5.6.

Give this a try with your Christmas tree! :) Experiment with your aperture and see how the bokeh changes. Here are a couple of photography tutorials to get you started.

A Quick Guide to Understanding Your DSLR Camera
Get Beautiful Background Bokeh with your Christmas Tree

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68 Responses
  1. Ambar

    Hi Amanda, I have a question about the lighting indoors. Did you use the flash from the camera to compensate? or did you use other additional lighting? also, I’ve tried bokeh but like another person posted I get blurry subject, what are your suggestions? Thanks in advance!

  2. Vicki

    These photos are incredible! I especially love the color in them, and I have a question about that. How did you get the tree to look like pastel colors (pink, turquoise, & blue) behind the cupcake when it looks like the tree ornaments are actually primary colors (red, blue, and green)? Do you need a special setting or lighting for that?

  3. shelia

    Your pictures are always awesome! I love how you use actual photographs when explaining what you are doing (whether it’s photography or cooking) I am a visual person so you are one of my favorite go-to blogs for information.

  4. Sydney

    I love the third as well! And I LOVE your site!!!!!!! Thanks for all the great stuff! So fun! Can you tell me about how far away from the tree you were?? Can’t wait to try this!! :o) Thank you!

  5. Megan

    I loooove all of your pictures. I am studying photography in school. I like the third one, but because the background dots so-to-speak are larger, it almost distracts from the cupcakes. It leads the eye from the sprinkles on the cupcake to the background ‘dots’ or lights. I think the second picture at 4.5 is my favorite. I guess it all depends on what you are trying to say with your photos. All are great as always!

  6. Beth Trestrail

    I agree that the third shot is the best. All have the same basic characteristic near object focus, background blur. But the 5.6 aperture setting gave the crispest focus with the optimal effect of the lights in the background. The overall balance of objects is better in the third photo. This is proof that a “rule” for aperture settings is not always ironclad. In the digital age when wasting film is not a consideration, it’s well worthwhile to experiment with multiple settings to get the best overall composition and effect.

  7. Cheryl

    The third pic is my favorite – maybe because it mimics the confetti on the cupcake?!! I found your tutorial on Christmas trees and bokehs yesterday. Is this at all achievable with basically point-and-shoot? I have a Nikon L110. I tried most of yesterday afternoon and never could get it!! Thanks for all the info.

  8. Kathleen

    Great photos, I like the 5.6 one best too. Thanks for the info – I love your turorials they’re always easy to understand.

  9. Amy C

    If you’re obsessed with bokeh like me… you should get the Bokeh Masters Kit. Makes shaped bokeh – SO CUTE! – especially perfect for this time of year when twinkle lights are everywhere!!
    Try it – You’ll love it! (if you haven’t already done so)

    http://www.bokehmasterskit.com/

  10. Jen @ The Decor Scene

    Love all the pictures, but the 5.6 one is awesome. I have to start playing around with my Canon camera more. I have to read up on your site more and start to test different settings out. I recently borrowed someone’s macro lens and I’m in love. I don’t remember the exact lens, but it took some amazing pictures and that was just on the auto setting. ;) Thanks for always sharing such great posts.

  11. Jill @ Rustic Bliss

    The 3rd one for sure…Beautiful. It’s so colorful and dreamy it almost magicaly brings out the inticing flavor all by itself…”awww I gotta have this yummy goodness” kinda effect.
    *thanks kevin & amanda now jill is hungry for cupcakes – gawwh!*

  12. Amanda

    Ok so you inspired me to play around with my camera and my tree a little. But I have an issue. I adjusted my settings on my Nikon D3000 and used a tripod to try and get a picture. Im using a Nikkor 55-200mm Lense. But my subject keeps turning out blurry. No matter how still I try and stay when I hit the shutter button. This is what I keep getting

    http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d109/ilayou777/DSC_0300.jpg

    and this was the best I could get

    http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d109/ilayou777/DSC_0313.jpg

    Am I missing something??

    PLEASE help me Amanda!!! :)

    1. Peter

      You should increase your ISO to get a faster shutter speed or use a tripod one of your shots was taken at f9 with an ISO of only 200 resulting in a shutter speed of over half a second. Try 800 ISO and a faster exposure time of around 125/s

  13. Shantell Newm

    Thanks for posting! I was planning on giving the bokeh technique a try tonight, actually, for our christmas cards. I will give these settings a try as a start! The last one is my favorite!

  14. Tricia

    Thank you so much for this quick tut., Amanda. I have been struggling a bit with my tree bokeh. The visuals helped a lot.
    Oh, and now I want a cupcake. Somehow, when I visit your blog, I always leave wanting a cupcake.
    Just sayin’.

    xo*tricia

  15. HeatherB

    I really like the tree in the third, but I prefer the cupcake in the first. Beautiful photos – thanks for the side-by-side comparison!

  16. Monica

    I have to say, I liked the third picture the best. You’re an amazing photographer Amanda. :) That cupcake looks SO. GOOD. The ornaments kind of look like the sprinkles too!! :D

  17. Becky

    Love all your pics. What a beautiful tree. I’m not photography savy but my fave is the first one because it features the cupcake more. Yum that cupcake looks good. :) Merry Christmas by the way.

  18. Joyce

    I liked them all, but I think I liked the third one the best. It is always interesting to see what settings you used to get the effects.

  19. Marywithgarden

    The 1st photo is more impressionistic and I think that the cupcake really pops to the front. The middle one starts to form impressions of circles that are repeated in the sprinkles on the cupcake so it draws your eye there. The third one has strong circular shapes as well as separated colors, so you begin to take in a more formal composition of the entire photo and not concentrate on the cupcake, only. I would say then it depends on what you are trying to say with your photo.

    great exercise

    keep experimenting!

  20. Anna Faustini

    Hi Amanda,
    My favorite is the third picture, 5.6. The colors are beautiful. I would love to learn all about photography, but need to work on getting equipment like yours first. Thanks for sharing with all of us. I really enjoy it all. :)

  21. Sharie T

    I really like the third one too. My new camera lens only goes to f/3.5 so I can’t get the first one….yet :)I like the lights better too. Cute cupcake!
    Thanks for another great lesson!

  22. Lynisha

    I love the results at 5.6! I normally try to shoot with a lower f-stop too but I love those results! I need to put some lights up to try this out!

  23. Lisa McCully

    I took the most beautiful picture of my entire tree, using the bokeh effect. I stood in a lite room about 10 feet from my tree, focused on something very close to me, lifted the camera to frame the tree and fired the shot. It was beautiful. I got varying degrees of focus depending on how close I focused on the things near me. It was so fun and the picture made me smile ear to ear :)
    Your cupcake bokeh is awesome!!

  24. Wendy

    As a photographer, I agree with you. I like the 3rd one better. I normally like a smaller apeture as well, but the bokeh effect is just right on the 3rd one! Job well done :)

  25. Julie

    Love these pictures! :) I love my Canon 50mm f/1.8, but I’m loving the look of the f/5.6 you took! It’s so pretty, brings so much more color to it, perfect! :)

  26. traci

    I love the cupcake pictures. The christmas tree is also beautiful.I love the vivid colors in the cupcake photo.I need to learn to take better pictures. I need help with ordering pictures. Have a great day : ).

  27. Marci

    Definitely like the 5.6 shot. I love how the tree in the background has more defined spheres. For me it creates a fantasy look….and the cupcake is still the focal point of the shot.

  28. Mia

    My favorite tree is in the third picture because it’s not too blurry. But I think the cupcake looks better in the first. It’s sligthly darker/sharper in color. Which of the three settings did that? Or is it a combination?

  29. Stephanie

    The 3rd one is my favorite too. I can’t wait to take some tree pictures with bokeh, now that I have my new lens. Oh and I definitely see cupcakes in my near future now!!

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Meet Kevin & Amanda

Kevin and Amanda

We love to travel and to eat! Here we share our favorite quick and easy recipes, plus travel tips and guides for our favorite places around the world. Meet our Boston Terriers. Take a tour of our house. If you have any questions about what camera I use or how I edit my photos, check out my photography tutorials.

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