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How to Photograph Holiday Lights

How to Photograph Holiday Lights

The holiday decorations are up, the trees are decorated and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. It’s time to break out the cameras and lenses from and create some magical images. There are some things you need to know before you start snapping away. Here are some tips for photographing holiday lights this season.

When the Lights go Down
Obviously you don’t want to try to photograph outdoor holiday lights during the day. It’s also difficult to capture the true beauty of the shining indoor lights near the natural light of windows, near lighting given off from lamps, or under overhead lighting. When photographing holiday lights at night, you’ll be using slow shutter speeds. Use the tripod that comes with your Nikon Camera to avoid camera shake so you will get crisp shots with these long exposures.

holiday lights

Blinking Lights
If you are trying to photograph blinking lights on the tree, you’ll want to increase your shutter speed on your digital camera. This will insure that you capture the full light cycle.

Special Lenses
You can take beautiful holiday lights photography just by shooting with your camera’s kit lens. However, if you want to step out of the box, or capture professional-quality holiday lights photos, try using different lenses. A Tamron lens from will allow you to take some impressive close-up shots of holiday lights. You will create sharp, life-sized images of your holiday lights shooting with a macro lens. Create some stunning bokeh by shooting with a wide-angle lens. A wide angle lens will capture more of the scene or subject in the frame. This is great when shooting outdoor holiday lights or if you are trying to capture a wider scene at a close distance indoors. A good technique to use with a wide angle lens is to shoot your holiday lights using wide apertures so you can create a nice background blur.


Skip the Flash
If you are photographing holiday lights outdoors, chances are your flash won’t be powerful enough to help anyway. If photographing holiday lights indoors, using a flash may take away from the effect you are trying to achieve. However, if you are taking portraits and using the holiday lights as your background, you may want to use a flash for fill light.


Sparkling Images
Create a starburst effect by using the smallest apertures possible on your Nikon camera. Using such a small aperture of f/18 or smaller exaggerates the shape of the aperture creating a multi-point star effect of bright point lights on your tree or house.

Bokeh Shapes
Step up your bokeh game when photographing your holiday lights this year. Instead of the usual circle bokeh holiday lights you normally create with your camera lens of choice, create your own bokeh shapes. Simply cut out stencils of any desired shape like hearts, stars or trees from black cardstock. Place your cutout in front of your 50mm lens, telephoto lens, or whichever lens you are using, and shoot towards the holiday lights. Grab your gear and capture your photographs of the beautiful holiday lights before it’s too late!
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