Christmas Lights

It’s here! Christmas season is so magical and beautiful, and the lights are what bring it all together. But how do you photograph them in a way to make them look as magical as they do in real life? This is where knowing your cameras settings can get really fun!

Before we get started on how to do it, lets get some basics in place first.

1. Turn OFF your flash. The flash will overpower the lights that you are trying to capture.

2. A tripod or a hard surface. You will be working at slow shutter speeds, and no matter how steady your hand is, you will get some camera shake.  A remote trigger is a plus, but not a must.

3. Take the camera out of Auto. You want to have creative control over this picture, so you need to be in charge of the picture, not the camera.

So let’s get started!

1. Starburst

Switch to Manual. I know. This is scary, but you’ll be OK.

1. Set your White Balance to Tungsten. This works great for most lights, but if you have the LED lights, you might want to play around with white balance and see which color is more accurate.

2. Set your ISO as low as you can go. Don’t worry. You will make up for it later.

3. Set your Aperture as high as you can go. (This means make the number bigger. 16 or higher.) Keep in mind that everything will be in focus, so don’t leave any distracting objects.

4. Shutter Speed is going to be loooong. Let’s start at 25 seconds. This is where the tripod comes in handy. I dare you to hold that camera still for 25 seconds! The longer your shutter speed is, the brighter the burst will be.

Now… Play around with it. Switch these up, following the basic rules. If your exposure it too dark or light, switch it around to fix it. You are in control of what your camera is capturing.



What about the pretty blurry background? Let’s check those settings out!

Here we are going to change a things up.

1. Aperture. Remember what this does? This is how much is going to be in focus in your depth of field. If the number is small, you will have a small amount in focus. Here, make the number as small as your lens will go. The smaller it is, the dreamier your background will be.

2. Shutter Speed. We don’t need the long exposure to get the lights to burst, so we can cut this down significantly.

3. ISO. You might see your pictures get a little darker, so you are going to have to compensate a little with your ISO. Make this number higher if it is getting to be too dark.

Now, get something to focus on. Put something in the foreground that is exciting and beautiful. If you are photographing children, you will want a shutter speed over 125, so change your other settings accordingly.  Looking for some inspiration? Check these out!


Going outside? Don’t wait until it’s dark. You still want to catch a little color in the sky, to add more depth and detail to your pictures.

Get creative! The greatest thing about a camera that can get out of Auto, is…. getting it out of auto! Get your kids in the picture, capture their expression and the light reflecting off their faces. Heck, you get in the picture too! It doesn’t matter if your hair isn’t just right or you think you can feel all those extra holiday goodies on your body. Your family loves you the way you are, and you will look back on the pictures and see the memories made.

Merry Christmas!

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