Photography Tips - Photographing Christmas Lights

It's that time of year where ornaments and twinkling lights can be seen everywhere you go! I find it all SO magical, but it used to feel impossible to really capture the beauty of those lights on film. I could get so-so pics but the lights never seemed to come alive like they did when I was LOOKING at the lights. 

BUT, I figured it out and now I want to share it with you! Do YOU want to make those lights twinkle in your photos? Then you are in the right place. Here are the players:
Camera with ability to control shutter speed and a self-timer
Lights to photograph!

Okay, the way to get lights (on your tree, house, window, street whatever) to twinkle and get that "starburst" look is to photograph them with as SLOW a shutter speed as possible. This means that you'll definitely need a tripod, otherwise you'll get a blurry shot. So, set up your camera on a tripod, or other solid surface, then set your shutter speed to something like 10 seconds or something similar. You will also want to change your ISO to it's lowest number because a slow shutter speed means a LOT of light will be flooding your sensor or film. So, set your ISO to 100 or so, then set your shutter speed to a really slow speed. You can experiment with this :) Before you press the shutter, you'll want to use the self-timer so that when the shutter fires, there is no bumping it. Make sense? So, set the self-timer, press the shutter button, then stand back and wait for the photo to be taken! The longer your shutter speed, the more "twinkly" your lights will look! You'll be amazed!



Melodie said...

This perfect! I was trying to figure out just how to do this and these are great tips! Thanks!

Judy Cozza Photography said...

SUPER GREAT - Thanks for this amazingly great idea!! Thank you - thank you!

hizles said...

Great! I am going to give this a go tonight! Thanks!

Mary said...

Your photos came out so beautiful. I have been trying for the past 3 years to get a good photo of my Christmas tree with the lights on. I have used everything that you mentioned except for putting my ISO down to 100. Thank you Bobbi as soon as I get my tree up I will ne trying this.


Beth @ UnskinnyBoppy said...

These pictures are beautiful! I'm going to try this tonight. Would absolutely love it if you'd come link this post up to the Show Your Glow party I've got going right now! http://www.unskinnyboppy.blogspot.com/2011/11/show-your-glow-christmas-tree-link.html


Sarah said...

Thank you so much, totally worked for me too. Thank you for inspiring me to go manual, at least for the moment! My photos turned out great!

nancy eileen said...

you mentioned setting shutter speed to 10-seconds,
with a Nikon 5100, how do I go about setting shutter speed to any seconds?

Sarah Dahl said...