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How to Photograph Christmas Lights and Decorations

This is post from last year – just giving it a little bump – ’tis the season ‘n all!

How to photograph christmas lights

I’ve finally got my tree and my decorations up.  I know, I’m super slow but as my daughter’s birthday is in December we try to keep things separate so we don’t decorate for Christmas until her celebrations are through.  This leaves everything a bit rushed so I’m kinda late getting around to trimming the tree and taking pictures of it but hopefully I’m not too late in sharing these tips with you on how to take some beautiful Christmassy pictures of your lights and decorations.

1. Turn off your flash.  That’s right.  Do not use a flash when shooting any kind of Christmas lights or anything that is illuminated for that matter.  Most digital cameras will allow you to turn off the flash by way of a shortcut button on the back of the camera body although you might have to move out of Auto mode into P to manually override your Auto flash.  This will depend on your camera model – dig out that manual if in doubt!How to Photograph Christmas Lights

2. Raise your ISO.  This will make your camera more sensitive to low light and give you a better chance and getting those beautiful sparkly lights.  Again the ISO is usually controlled by a shortcut button on the back of your camera and how you can raise it will depend on your specific model.  I suggest using an ISO rating of 800 to capture indoor Christmas lights.

3. Keep steady.  Because you have turned off your flash, the camera now has to do something to let more light in and in most cameras that’s going to be slow the shutter speed down.  When this happens, any kind of movement or camera shake will blur your image so use a tripod if you have one. If not improvise with a stack of books a table or anything steady to rest your camera onPhotographing Christmas Lights


4. If you want to take a picture of your little ones in front of the tree try using the night portrait mode in your cameras scene modes.  You’ll recognize this icon as it has a little image of a person with stars.  This is a combination of a slow shutter speed so that the twinkly lights are correctly exposed and a burst of flash to correctly expose your subject.  It gives a great effect and its one of the only scene modes that I recommend to my students to use.

5.  Get up close.  Fill your frame with lights and close-ups of specific ornaments so that there is no doubt about what you are trying to capture. You may want to switch your camera to Macro mode to allow you to get super close.

Have fun trying to capture that Holiday feeling!

Merry Christmas