How to Photograph Christmas Lights-

How To Photograph Christmas Lights: Free Photography Cheat Sheet

With the Christmas season in full swing, towns are awash with festive colours and textures. But it can be tricky knowing how to set up your camera to shoot bright subjects in low light. In our latest photography cheat sheet we’ve provided a very timely tips card explaining how to photograph Christmas lights and ensure a good exposure.

How to Photograph Christmas Lights-
Photo credit from: Light Decorations Ideas

Most town centres are transformed by the sparkle of Christmas lights. When setting the exposure, watch out for lost highlight detail in the lights themselves. You may need a tripod for long exposures at lower ISO settings.

  • Best camera settings to photograph Christmas lights:

How to Photograph Christmas Lights-
Photo credit from: to photograph Christmas lights: best camera settings to use (free cheat sheet)

Exposure mode

Focus mode

Shutter speed
1/15 sec



18 to 24mm

Drive mode
Single shot

White balance
Daylight or Tungsten

Final Tip
Good high ISOs and image stabilisation mean you can hand-hold many night shots. Try bracing yourself against a wall to get sharp results.

  • Tips to Photographs Christmas Lights:

Here are some useful tips for photographing Chistmas house lights at night time.

With Christmas lights flashing and people randomly walking around the decorations, it’s important not to set a too slow of a shutter speed. The last thing you want is a decoration or person seen in your photograph as a slow motion blur. To get around this, you need to keep a low aperture and higher than normal ISO.

How to Photograph Christmas Lights-
Photo credit from: Outdoor Christmas Decorations Ideas Trend Outdoor Christmas Decoration Ideas At Decoration Ideas

Recommended SLR camera settings for Christmas lights at night.

How to Photograph Christmas Lights-
Photo credit from: flash settings: exploring your built-in flash options
  • Use either a macro or an all purpose wide angle lens. A macro is useful if you want to seclude any one ornament or decoration. Where as a wide angle lens is great if you want to get the whole house into the picture.
  • It’s also a good idea to use a tripod, as the shutter speed will be too slow for sharp hand held shots.
  • Set your camera on manual mode with a low as possible aperture f number. For example anywhere between f/2.8 to f/4.6 will be sufficient.
  • For starters set the ISO to 400. Depending on how dark you want the images to be, you can adjust this later on. It’s never recommend going higher than 800 however, due to loss of photo quality the higher the ISO.
  • There are two ways to adjust the shutter speed. Firstly, you can focus the camera at part of the house that isn’t too dark or too light and adjust the exposure. If you like a darker photograph, then underexpose the settings by around 2 or 3 stops.
  • Or you can take a bit of a punt and initially set the shutter speed to around 1/50th of a second, then adjust it give and take from there. If the photograph seems too dark for your liking, then choose a slower speed (up to say 1/25th of a second). If it’s too light then choose a faster speed. As the night gets darker and light changes you may need to adjust this.
  • Put your camera on aperture priority and set the lowest f number your lens will allow, for example f/2.8 up to f/4.6. Again, it’s a good idea to use a tripod.When using aperture priority, make sure automatic ISO is turned off. You do want to choose this setting yourself, so you can keep it to around 400 ISO.

SOURCES: How to photograph Christmas lights: best camera settings to use (free cheat sheet) Chistmas light photography


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