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What is the best way to photograph Holiday lights

What is the best way to photograph Holiday lights

Photographing holiday lights has always been a fun and enjoyable way to incorporate a photography journey over the holiday season. From photographing Christmas lights to the actual Christmas Tree, you will want to make sure that you get the best image quality from your exposures.

Taking superb photos during the holiday season of your family and friends, and the wonderful holiday lights that are visible in city skylines, can be a great way for photography beginners to show off their skills as they learn and progress in a potential photography career. Photos of tree lights, light displays on your yard or the outdoor lights on your neighbors property are a great way to show off your skills and produce some beautiful images.

Having a great DSLR camera and lens is crucial, however some tutorials will also be extremely beneficial when photographing holiday lights. Whether you are a beginner or a photography enthusiast, with the photography tips we will provide below coupled with suggestions of different equipment, light photography for the holidays should come second nature to you.

When trying to DIY and photographing holiday lights, there are many terms and factors which will contribute or detract to or from getting a great exposure. Here we will address several of the tutorials like camera settings and also different cameras and equipment to help guide you in your holiday photography environment.

holiday lights

Camera Settings

In order to begin let’s discuss some of the important camera settings that you will need to capture amazing holiday lights in your photography.

  1. For beginners, we recommend that you set your camera to autofocus which will set an auto white balance among other settings. However we recommend trying manual mode or manual focus, which will give you more control over the camera settings as opposed autofocus where the camera makes the decisions for you over exposure settings.

  2. Adjust your shutter speed prior to set the shutter release, ISO and aperture settings among others, to compensate for the ambient light which you will find when taking holiday photos.

  3. When trying to photograph a home with beautiful Christmas lights, try and shoot during the blue hour. The Blue hour is the time of day before sunrise and after sunset when the sky has a deep, blue color.

  4. Use a lower ISO setting like ISO 100 on your camera to for daytime shooting of your Christmas Tree an other holiday lights. Or you can use a high ISO up to 6000-8000 for low light photography. This will depend on available light sources, as you will probably be shooting in low light. When referencing ISO, a low ISO, the better. A higher ISO may allow for some graininess may appear in your images.

  5. Use a tri-pod which will help remove camera shake and blur which is sometimes found in handheld photography. Try the General Brand Professional Full-Size 60 Inch Camera/Video Tripod. This tri-pod will give you the versatility to use it on floors, desks, tables and even outdoors. With non-slip grips on the legs of the tri-pod you have even more ease of use when shooting photography and videography.

  6. Try shooting your images with a wide aperture setting of f/1.4 (f-stop) with a slow shutter speed of 1/200. This will allow for the long exposure to bring in more natural light to the image frame. A longer exposure will allow for even more light to enter the exposure. This one of the benefits of shooting with a slower shutter speed.

  7. Keep an eye on your camera flash by making sure there is enough light. If you have the flash set when shooting holiday lights like Christmas Tree lights, you may have too much distortion of the image. So usually you want to keep the flash off.

  8. Taking holiday photos with a great Bokeh effect is a surefire way to have your images be the talk of the holiday. Focus the camera on your subject with a beautifully blurred background, and you will get a jaw dropping exposure focused in on every detail of your subjects. Also set your camera to shoot with a shallow depth of field to properly achieve that Bokeh effect.

  9. Check to make sure that your focal length is good. You don’t want the details of your subject to appear out of focus.

  10. Tungsten or incandescent lights with incandescent bulbs create an extremely warm light source. Make sure that your camera and lens are prepared for this type of light which is common and older type of lighting. Set your camera’s auto white balance to compensate for this type of ambient light Christmas lights



Let’s take a deep dive into several cameras that we feel are perfect for capturing those holiday lights.

  • The Sony Alpha ZV-E10 APS-C Interchangeable Lens Mirrorless Vlog Camera.

    • The Sony ZV-E10 contains a large 24.2 megapixels APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor and fast BIONZ X processor, which produces high quality images and video in addition to a wonderful bokeh effect and an anti-dust system.

    • The Sony ZV-E10 Mirrorless Camera get you 4K High Resolution HDR imagery oversampled from 6K.

    • This is a body only camera so you can attach any of the Sony E-mount lenses including their G-Master high end lenses.

    • Compatible with prime, wide angle lenses or even a macro lens.

    • Weighing at just 12.8 ounces, the ZV-E10 is ready and made for vloggers. So get ready to show off your holiday vlog or creative content photographing holiday lights.

    • 24.2 effective megapixel CMOS sensor for high quality images.

    • ISO 100-32000 (ISO ranges up from ISO 50 to ISO 51200 can be set as expanded ISO range.) AUTO (ISO 100-6400, selectable lower limit and upper limit can be chosen as well).

    • 4K HDR video recording at up to 30 FPS and full HD 1080P recording at up to 120 FPS making for smooth frame rates on your video recordings.

    • Amazing clear voice recording with a built-in Directional 3-Capsule Mic, the ZV-E10 records voices clearly even in crowded settings. So get your family and loved ones around the Christmas Tree and don’t worry about too much ambient noise.

    • The Sony ZV-E10 will help keep things smooth taking shots images and stills on the move. Active Mode electronic image stabilization gives you stable video footage with minimal to no shake typically found in handheld shooting.

    • Sony’s ZV-E10 is bluetooth and Wi-Fi capable for seamless connectivity. In addition, there is multi micro USB ports and a micro HDMI port. So feel free to livestream your holiday moments and vlogs if you want.

  • Another great camera for photographing holiday lights, is the Sony a6400 Mirrorless APS-C Interchangeable-Lens Camera. This is an interchangeable lens camera that comes with a great 18-135mm lens. Here are some of the features we love about this camera:

    • A powerful 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS image sensor and latest-generation BIONZ X™ image processor

    • Great autofocus system with 425 phase detection points which will help in capturing the image of the subject in great detail.

    • Precise and accurate tracking of moving subjects without loss of image detail.

    • Rated for 116 JPEG shots or 46 shots in RAW shots when using continuous shooting. So you get lots of exposures to chose from.

    • AI based subject recognition for fantastic eye and facial tracking.

    • Super 35mm format recording with 2.4x oversampling gives you 4K movies (QFHD: 3840 x 2160) with outstanding image quality.

    • A 180 degree tilting LCD screen is present for easier concentration on screen settings and the subject or object you are photographing. So you can focus on those beautiful holiday lights with comfort and ease.

    • Included Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow you to connect to peripheral devices with ease and use the Wi-Fi to upload photos and videos to a social media site if you so choose.

      christmas tree


A great camera to shoot holiday lights with is awesome but without a powerful lens to compliment the camera, you won’t get the full attractiveness of your photos and videos in your exposures. So having the right lens for each occasion is paramount.

As an example of a great lens to shoot holiday lights with, we present the Tamron 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD Lens for Sony E-Mount APS-C Mirrorless.

Some of the amazing features of this lens are:

  • This the world’s first 16.6x all-in-one zoom lens for APS-C mirrorless cameras.

  • Equivalent to 27-450mm lenses on most full-frame cameras.

  • Best-in-class, speedy and accurate AutoFocus provided by the VXD linear motor focus mechanism.

  • MOD of 5.9" and maximum magnification ratio of 1:2 at wide end

  • Best image quality in its class; maintains high resolving power from the center to the corners throughout the range

  • Outstanding VC stabilization eliminating blur and shake.

  • So easy to carry around, for example if you are out and about this holiday season shooting the holiday lights, you don’t want to lug around a heavy large lens. This lens is very compact at 4.9" long and weighing just 21.9 oz

  • Moisture-Resistant Construction and Fluorine Coating which gives you peace of mind protecting your significant photography investment.

  • The Tamron 18-300mm lens is compatible with features and functions within the camera, including Fast Hybrid AutoFocus and Eye AutoFocus. This gives the lens so much versatility and broad compatibility.

  • If you want to mount this lens on a different mounting system than the Sony E-mount you will need an adapter based off which camera make you have. As Nikon uses an F mount system, that is an example of where a mounting adapter would be needed.

  • Tamron is an industry leader in lenses, and professionals and photography enthusiasts will attest to that. You will be hard pressed to find such a fantastic lens at this price point.



Taking photos of holiday lights may seem like a daunting task, especially if you are a photography beginner. However, with the right camera, lens and the tips we provided, this holiday season should be a great opportunity to show off your photography skills.

Don’t be deterred, get out there and start photographing those lights!!

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