How to get that perfect blurry Christmas light look from your Android camera

We've all seen those incredible photos where the background is a series of soft, blurry lights that come together to form the iconic Christmas tree. The truly great versions of these photos are usually taken with very nice professional cameras, but you can also get this effect with the camera in your Android phone. With all of the great cameras on phones running Android this year, there's more than a couple of you out there looking to take these photos whenever the opportunity arises.

Here's a quick tutorial on capturing these photos with your phone, and the apps that will help make it easy.

First let's get some language out of the way. The kind of photos you're trying to capture are called Bokeh photos, and they happen when you capture something by focusing on something in the foreground with the lights you want to look blurry in the background.


On a professional camera, this process involved adjusting your lens until you get the desired effect and taking the photo. On a phone you have no big lens, so you either need to force focus on something in the foreground or use an app with manual focus. You can probably do this with the camera app that came pre-loaded on your phone, but if you want the most control over your focal points and don't have a manual mode baked in to your native app you can install Manual Camera to get the desired effect.

You'll need to be a couple of feet away from the tree to get the look you want with your phone, so pick a good spot and open your camera app. Auto-focus is going to grab the tree and bring it into focus, which isn't what you want. If you are taking a picture of something in the foreground, make sure that something is close to the camera and not the lights. At this point you can either tap to focus on the subject in the foreground or use manual focus until the lights look the way you'd like. In Manual Camera, you can adjust the focus to Macro Mode, which will let you shoot very close to the lens on your phone, though if you're taking a picture of a person with the lights in the background you'll want to adjust the focus to a more appropriate distance.

Groot Bokeh

The key is to be a reasonable distance away from the lights, and to focus on the foreground. You'll see in the viewfinder through whatever app you choose to use that the lights are blurred to the effect you want to create, and once that happens you tap your shutter button and capture your photo. Congrats, you just captured a fun holiday photo worthy of all your social networks.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter