How To Photograph Christmas Lights

Merry Christmas everyone!

The year is coming to a close and so is work and hopefully we can all wind down and relax for a few weeks. Its also a great time to grab those cameras and take some sensational photos of Christmas lights. When I say Christmas lights I mean anything from the Christmas tree to peoples houses decorated in pretty lights to Christmas candles.

We live in a neighbourhood where people love to decorate their houses with all sorts of lights, reindeer’s, Santa’s sleigh, angels and religious themes. Its such a fun and special times of year for those of you who are just big kids.

And photographically its a fantastic time as well, because those lights look absolutely beautiful; in a photo. Lets take this one for example:


Photo by Gavin Mills

This photo would have been taken using a tripod and a very slow shutter speed. When I take photos of Christmas lights I use a tripod (yes even for indoors) and use a shutter between 1/60 and 5 seconds depending on how much light you have coming from the tree itself. I recommend using a slow shutter of no more that this. By using a slow shutter you’ll be slowing the camera down so the lights are sharp and not blurry.

You can use an aperture of around f.8 or f.4/ F.4 is probably better considering you’ll always be shooting at night. These are just my recommendations, I urge you to try it yourself.

You can use a higher ISO if you find you are having trouble with getting more light onto the sensor. Sometimes I’ve used an ISO of 800 to increase the cameras light sensitivity. This can increase noise somewhat but you can use Noise Ninja to tone down any noise if you feel its too much. It will help clean up the noise in your image, leaving you with a sharper image.

For Christmas lights outdoors you can use the same types of settings. Remember also that dusk will be considered as darkness by your camera, so don’t be surprised if you end up shooting as you would at night time.

Happy shooting,

Amy Renfrey


Photo by Erin Marie Payne.

Thank you to Erin and Gavin for use of their pictures.


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