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Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights

Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights

Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights

With front yards, windows, roofs, and pretty much the entire neighborhood decked out in elaborate light displays, it’s time to get out your camera and capture these beautiful lights in all their sparkling glory. However, photographing holiday lights can be quite tricky as they often need just the right exposure so that the colors don’t wash each other out. To help you get started, below is a list of essential equipment and tips to help you shoot stunning pictures of holiday lights.

Essential Equipment Manual Camera

Manual mode is definitely the way to go when photographing string lights. This is why you need a camera that allows you to tweak your manual settings and use interchangeable lenses that can supplement your shooting needs. A manual camera will allow you to set the perfect light sensitivity level (ISO); adequate shutter speed to capture the rich colors of the display; and aperture settings to achieve your desired depth of field. Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras s from are great for holiday light photography.


You’ll need special lenses if you really want to capture professional-quality photos of decorative string lights. A macro lens is a must if you want to take impressive close-up shots of those holiday light bulbs. A wide-angle lens lens will capture more of the scene or subject in your frame even while shooting at a fairly close distance.

Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights


A tripod helps you achieve a successful long exposure shot of holiday lights at night. It will stabilize your camera and avoid the motion blur often caused by handheld shooting ensuring sharper images.

Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights

Shoot During Twilight or Dusk- Shooting at nighttime is a good way to really bring out the beauty of holiday lights. Instead of shooting when the sky is pitch dark, take photos at twilight or dusk. The sky should have a much softer blue glow, giving your photos more photographic texture and color. If you’re photographing lights on a building, capturing the scene when there is still some light in the sky will allow you to better include the surrounding terrain like trees, bushes, other structures, and the sky.

Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights

Skip the Flash

Not only will it be useless, especially when shooting from a great distance, but it can wash out the rich color and reveal unnecessary details. It can bring out wires and cords, that can distract viewers from the beauty of the lights in the image.

People and Lights

You want to capture both the bright lights and your friend? Many of’s point-and-shoot cameras have a funny-looking setting that looks like a person with a star in the background. This is your solution to getting light on your friend’s face while capturing the light display at the same time. It causes the flash to fire and expose the face while the lens stays open and captures the lights.

Turn Off Automatic White Balance

By turning off the auto white balance feature you’re sure to capture the exaggerated colors the holidays have to offer. You could try turning off white balance altogether or even experiment with any of the other manual settings to find a color balance that suits your visual needs. Either way is a better bet than giving the decision to the camera.

Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights

As stunning as some lights are to see, they can be even more fun to photograph. Get creative. Change lenses, zoom in and out, intentionally blur, add light, mask light, etc. Put your own personality into the image and have fun experimenting with your camera.

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