with Courtney Slazinik
Christmas Tree Lights Photos: 5 Easy Steps

Do you have a photo that you take each year of your children at Christmas?

For us, it is the children by the Christmas tree with only the lights from the tree illuminating their faces.

Looking back at the photos you can see how they change each year.

This is an easy photo for you to start taking each year.

Let’s talk about how to get a photo like this one shooting in manual mode.

Christmas Tree Lights Photos

Start a new Christmas photo tradition. In 5 simple steps, you can photograph your children by the light of the Christmas tree. This is a perfect way to photograph Christmas and capture the magic.

  • No.
    Turn off ALL the lights but the tree.

    You want your house to be pitch black. You want the only lights on are the lights from the tree.

  • No.
    Crank up your ISO

    You are shooting in extremely low lighting and you may need to max out your ISO. Remember it is better to increase your ISO than have an underexposed image.

  • No.
    Meter off the light hitting their face

    You are going to have very little light to work with so it may be a challenge but you want to make sure their faces are illuminated.

  • No.
    Set your white balance

    This one is extremely important. Christmas lights can have some crazy colors and that is reflected onto your child’s face. Instead, set your white balance prior to taking the photo so you have less of a headache in post-processing.

    Not sure how to set your white balance? Check out some different white balance methods here.

  • No.
    Tell your subject to FREEZE

    Because you may need to lower your shutter speed to get a properly exposed image you do not want them to move.

Settings: 20mm on D700, f/2.8, 1/100, ISO 3200

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

Snap a couple Christmas tree lights photos and then don’t forget to take time this year to put your camera down and enjoy the moments you are capturing!

The perfect Christmas tradition! Photograph your kids by the Christmas tree every year. Follow these five simple steps to take pictures of your kids by the Christmas tree.
  • Sarah Bauer
    November 17, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Um, do we want to make sure our children’s faces are ‘eliminated’ or ‘illuminated’? ;)

    • Courtney
      November 17, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      HA! Good catch! Thank you!

    • Nicole
      December 24, 2014 at 8:51 PM

      I guess it depends on whether or not you like the children… ;)

  • November 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    Awesome tips! This is great. Thank you!

    • Courtney
      November 29, 2012 at 1:39 PM

      Thanks!! Have fun photographing your Christmas!

  • Emily Simmons
    November 28, 2012 at 5:45 AM

    Just found your blog and I love it! Thanks for all the great tips and explaining them in a way easy to understand!!

    • Courtney
      November 29, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      Welcome!! I’m so glad you enjoy them! Let me know if you have any questions!

  • December 28, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    Ok, this might require a lengthy answer…but how do you do number 4 (metering the light off their faces)? Thanks!

    • January 2, 2013 at 4:56 PM


      Do you shoot in manual mode?? If so, make sure you are using spot metering so that you only have one focal point. This is where the camera pulls the light to figure out the exposure. Put that spot on their faces and they will be lit correctly :) Check out this post – http://clickitupanotch.com/2010/09/metering-mode-–-basics/

  • Lizzie Saito
    November 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    These are really nice BW photos! The tree lighting looks great too… I think adding transparent glass figurines from Murano and http://www.glasslilies.com will make the lights more mesmerizing and will make the tree shine all across the rooms.

  • Sarah
    December 22, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    Why do I get flares or small reflective lights on my subjects. It’s like the lights are reflecting off the lens but I move around and the reflections are just moving also?

    • January 2, 2014 at 9:02 AM

      I’m not sure. Do you have a filter on your lens? Good luck!

  • Kristi
    December 4, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    You may have answered this question somewhere else on your blog, but is the Tripod you linked to one that you recommend for an amateur hoping to improve her photography? I’m pretty sure I’ll never want to carry my tripod, so I love the portability aspect of this one. Any other tripod tips?

  • Heather
    December 7, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    How do you get a 3-year-old to freeze? haha!

    • December 8, 2014 at 1:36 PM

      Isn’t that the impossible task :) I would suggest getting everything set up, get your metering correct and then convince them to come over and check out the tree. Hide something in there and see if they can find it and then whisper their name while they are looking and when they turn snap the photo :)

  • Heidi
    December 11, 2016 at 10:48 AM

    This is my daughter’s first Christmas – she is 10 months old this weekend. Do I have any hope for tree light photos with her, since she doesn’t know how to freeze? Any suggestions? Or do I have to wait a few years? I have a Canon Rebel T3i with kit lens and tripod.

  • Sarah
    November 18, 2018 at 10:36 PM

    What should the white balance be set on

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