with Courtney Slazinik
5 Steps on How to Photograph Christmas Lights

It’s Christmas time!! You know what that means–Christmas lights! Here are a few simple steps to help you take better photos of Christmas lights. Whether you have a point and shoot or a DSLR, you can use these steps to improve your photos.

How to photograph Christmas lights

1. Use a tripod! You will need to be able to take photos in low lighting and with longer shutter speeds. Get a tripod! If you want crisp sharp pictures of Christmas lights you need to use a tripod. Did I mention, use a tripod???

Photo used with permission by Megan Cieloha

I wish my house looked like this! No, this isn’t from a Pottery Barn catalog. My friend, Megan, has the most amazing house and she actually did wrap all her presents in wrapping paper that matched her ornaments. I love it! 

2. Turn off your flash. Your camera, whether it is a point and shoot or a DSLR, will want to put the flash on in low lighting, unless you are shooting in manual mode. Make sure you turn it off so the flash does not wash out your photo. Let the lights illuminate your subject.

3. Open up your aperture. Who doesn’t love Christmas light bokeh?? In order to achieve this you need to have your aperture pretty wide open.

Photo used with permission by Megan Cieloha

This shot makes me want to get a nice shining ornament just so I can do this :O) 

4. Close up/narrow your aperture. Okay, I know you are scratching your head and saying “But you just said open up your aperture.” This is true, if you want some bokeh have your aperture wide open. However, if you would like the starburst effect in your photos then you need to close it up to at least f/18.

5. Wait until 30 minutes after sunset to take outdoor shots. I think most people typically think they need to wait until it is completely dark outside to take photos of their house or a light display. If you go out shortly after sunset, it is still dark enough to see the lights but you are able to capture a lot of the surrounding details.

P.S. So this isn’t my house. I was super nervous about taking a picture of someone else’s house, so as I’m trying to get this picture very quickly, this little kid comes around the corner and say “What are you doing?” Busted! :O) Oh well! Got to love the beauty base housing :O)

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

  • Amber
    December 6, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    Great tips! Can’t wait to try these! I was just looking at my tree today thinking about how to take a pic of it!

    • December 7, 2010 at 12:30 PM

      Glad I could help :O)

  • December 6, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    Thanks girl!! The best picture we have of our tree was one Sam took right after we opened our Nikon. We had no idea what we were doing, but it turned out perfectly. This year, I will be using my tripod and photographing the tree. Now, if I could just get Bennett to sit still until the shutter closes…….hmmmmmmm…….maybe in a million years!

    • December 7, 2010 at 12:29 PM

      ha ha good luck with getting Bennett to sit still :O) Would love to see the pictures of your tree!

  • Trisha
    December 6, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    These are really great tips. I can’t wait to try them out.

  • December 7, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    love your clothing ideas – I still cringe when familys want to dress alike – I try to steer them away from that!!! Great post!

  • December 7, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    that picture made me laugh of the ornament – I took a bunch like that to make my new blog header but wound up covering up my reflection b/c I had my pj’s on – too funny – glad I wasn’t the only one that did that!!

    • December 7, 2010 at 12:30 PM

      I think that would have been even better to be in your pj’s :O)

  • December 4, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    For years I never thought of taking the flash off the camera when doing the pics in front of the tree. This year I did, and wow! Finally what I was looking for!

    • Courtney
      December 4, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      Yay!! I’m so glad to hear that!! It is so funny what we don’t think of until someone points it out! I’m the same way!!

  • Hannah
    November 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM

    Hi! Let me just first say I love your blog and all of your helpful tips! So helpful!I I was wondering, thanksgiving with extended family? any tips on how to capture those moments? My extended family is not big photogenic people so what should I do to change that or capture instead?

  • Fiona
    December 10, 2017 at 7:03 PM

    Great tips. I love you r sense of humour. Read learning from you.

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