Easy Photo Tip: Holiday Lights Beg to be Blurred. Here’s How.

Whether the holidays bring out your “Humbug!” or your “Ho, ho, ho!” there’s one thing you must admit: it’s the most colorful season of the year. And all of those colorful lights are just begging to be zoomed, blurred and pleasantly smeared. Here are two common techniques that are easy to try.

Out of Focus The objective is to keep the subject easily identifiable while obscuring the details. It can be done with a point-and-shoot, but it’s easier with a digital SLR. Adjust focus until you achieve a pleasant blur. That’s it. I can do it with my glasses off. This image was shot with a Sony NEX 6 and an ancient Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens at 1/1250 of a second and ISO 6400.

Zoom During Exposure We’ve shown this to you before, but here’s a more dramatic rendition. Use a zoom lens, a relatively long exposure and a steady hand. It’s important to keep the zoom lens perfectly still and centered when zooming during exposure.

This example was taken with a Pentax K20D and a Tamron 18-200mm zoom lens. Exposure was at f5.6 for one full second.

Go out and try these yourself. You may be amazed by the results. And most important of all, have fun trying!

—Jon Sienkiewicz