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How to Create Beams of Christmas Lights
Lifestyle, Manual Mode

A few weeks back one of our readers asked me to share some creative Christmas picture ideas. When I saw these pictures by Cory McMullan, I knew I wanted to try it and share it with you guys!

I think we have all tried and captured the tradition Christmas tree photos like the one below.
ISO 100, f/14, SS 4.0 sec at 18mm

Don’t get me wrong. You need to capture those traditional type photos. But why not try something fun this year and get to play with your camera and settings while you are at it.

Try something like this! I took all these with my Tamron 18-270mm 3.5-6.3 zoom lens. Make sure you have a zoom lens!
ISO 100, f/22, SS 5.0 sec – Starting at 42mm and zoomed out to 18mm

1. Set up your tripod. You need to make sure your camera is on steady ground so you are able to get straight lines and prevent camera shake since your shutter speed will be very slow.

2. Put your best zoom on your camera. I used my Tamron 18-270mm 3.5-6.3. It worked perfectly because of large focal length. I loved being able to zoom out to 18mm.

3. Slow your shutter speed WAY down. You want to make sure your shutter speed is in the seconds. Make sure your ISO is as low as possible. You may need to shoot at a very narrow aperture (larger number). This will help you to slow down your shutter speed. I liked having my shutter speed set at about 4 or 5 seconds.

4. Turn off all the lights in your house. You don’t want any other lights to affect your images. You want a slow shutter speed and if you have other lights on this may affect how slow your shutter speed can be.

5. Zoom your lens in on your subject and then slowly zoom out. For the tree shot I focused on an ornament. I hit the shutter button and slowly and I mean slowly, began to zoom out to 18mm. Sometimes, the shutter speed was not done so I would let it sit at 18mm until it was done. You want to make sure you are doing this slowly and without any jerky movements because that will affect how straight your light beams are.

6. The more you zoom out the longer your light beams. You can start at any focal length you want, however, the further you zoom in and then zoom out you will get longer light beams.

You can try it on all sorts of lights besides your tree.
ISO 100, f/10, SS 5.0 seconds – Started at 100mm and zoomed out to 18mm

I would love if you share images you take like this on our Facebook page. Can’t wait to see what you capture!

If you liked this post, you don’t want to miss these other Christmas posts:
* 16 Tips to Photograph Christmas morning
* 5 steps on how to photograph Christmas lights
* Tips to make your Christmas photos more than snapshots
* How to create beams of Christmas lights
* Christmas Tree Lights Photos: 5 Easy Steps
* Christmas Tree Lights Bokeh

This post was sponsored by Tamron USA.

30 Comments
  • December 14, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    Very cool! Something else to play with. My tripod has been getting lots of use this Christmas season. :)

  • December 14, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    that is SO cool! and so different from the traditional out of focus christmas bokeh shots! I’m really gonna have to try that!

  • December 14, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    So fun!! Can’t wait to try it!

  • December 14, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Ive been wanting to try this for a few weeks now- have to sit down this week and do it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • December 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Def. giving this one a try. I LOVE IT!!

  • December 14, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    This looks cool. I’m going to try this, even if it’s with my point and shoot. ;)

  • December 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    I’m having one of those ‘Why didn’t I think of that?!?’ moments. This is SO COOL!!!

  • yellowfin43
    December 14, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    I’ve was trying that technique over the summer during daylight. Makes for a cool warp speed tunnel effect!

    • December 17, 2011 at 9:09 AM

      Oh, I bet! Would love to see what you go on our Facebook page!

  • tazoeb
    December 15, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    Make sure your camera lens is set to manual focus and camera is on manual also or you could ruin your lens.

  • December 15, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    What a great idea! Just signed up to be your newest follower!

  • December 15, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Wow – how fun is this!? Those are some great shots!

  • December 16, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    What a fun experiment! Mine isn’t nearly as clean as yours, though:)

    http://kesnumber11in2011.blogspot.com/2011/12/d-349.html

    • December 17, 2011 at 9:10 AM

      You should share yours on the Facebook page!

  • December 17, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    I would have loved to, but got ride of my FB account:(

    • December 17, 2011 at 2:42 PM

      Believe me, I thought of doing the same thing. I use it more for the blog than my own personal use :O) Thanks for sharing the link though!!

  • Amy
    December 9, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    Love the site and all your tips! but I’m having a tough time with the light beams, my subject is blurry with beams. How do i get it sharp and not blurry or have ‘shadows” not sure what else to call it?

    • December 12, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      Thanks :) Is your camera on a tripod and are you using a zoom? That should help to prevent blur. I’m not sure what you mean about shadows though :)

      • Amy
        December 12, 2013 at 11:10 PM

        oh thanks for getting back to me, I really appreciate it. Yes, my camera is on a tripod and yes, I’ve tried two different lens. a Tamron 18-200, and a Sigma 70-300. I don’t know how to share a photo on here but i can on Facebook. Thanks for any suggestions.

  • December 12, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    I love your blog. It inspires me every time I read it :)
    Have just read the posts about WB (Kelvin and custom WB). What about here? What WB do you suggest to get a great image in the Christmas scenery?:)
    kisses from Poland :)

    • December 21, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      Thanks! Either custom WB or Kelvins would work. I use Kelvins a lot and would try around the 3000K till you found one you like :) Good luck!

  • Donna
    December 21, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    I am having problems also, I think same as Amy. I have the light “lines” but you cannot see the object I am shooting – the tree. Only the rays. What could I be doing wrong???

    • December 21, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      Try and focus on the tree before zooming in and out :) Hope it works!

  • Camille
    December 21, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    So, I saw this today on Facebook and think it’s awesome! I tried to do it tonight and i got the lines, but I can’t see my tree as well as yours. Thoughts?

    • December 27, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      It sounds like the image is underexposed. Try to get the image properly exposed to see your tree first and then play with the beam affects.

  • donna
    December 22, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    What is kelvins? I did make sure the tree was focused first. So now I am confused, do you zoom in and out during the ss?

  • January 5, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I loved this effect! I practiced it over Christmas and showed a couple of photos on my photography blog, mentioning this great article of course!

    Thanks for always sharing great tips!
    http://throughhisgracephotography.blogspot.com/

    • January 8, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      Yours turned out great! Thank you for mentioning my site.

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