How to photograph Christmas lights - Dreamstime

All of us love Christmas lights and cannot wait for the nighttime to come so we could go outside and see them in all their glory. Christmas lights look great both live and photographed, so get your camera ready and go out to capture unique shots of light displays hanging on poles, houses or buildings.

Get ready

When shooting in cold, make sure you protect both yourselves and your gear. Get dressed warmly with body layers and outdoor equipment: warm mittens, hat, scarf, warm socks, winter boots.

Naples, San Gregorio Armeno in the tourist area famous for Christmas cribs

It's important to mind your batteries as they lose their power quickly in cold weather. Place something warm around the battery compartment to keep them charged longer. Extra batteries are a must-have in winter and they too need to be placed in warm places.

The technical stuff

In order to shoot Christmas lights at nighttime, the scenes involved must be correctly exposed. Shoot at a higher ISO and for longer shutter speeds. The tripod is a must. Also, set your timer delay properly and use a remote shutter to avoid camera shakes in your photos.

Take into account that the lenses are important, too. Use lenses for close up and wide angle, you'll see the magical touch they add to those lights.

Well, this is for starters, the basic scene, now let's try add some special effects:

Bokeh Of Christmas Lights

Bokeh – Bokeh blur is one of those special effects you cannot miss. To have the perfect bokeh for dramatic effect, shoot out of focus lights with a shallow depth of field. The aperture must be set wide open so the lens will allow preferably f/2.8 or lower. Turn auto focus off, use close ups or wide angle, and blur the lights manually.

Blur motion – When you shoot moving objects, use a longer shutter to produce wonderful streaks of light in the scene.

Christmas Tree Fireplace Lights, Decorated Xmas Living Room, Night Interior

Star bursts – For such effects, shoot at f/22 and compose the lights in tack sharp focus. For a correct exposure, you’ll need a longer shutter speed, and for this, make sure your camera is steady on the tripod.

People – Add that special touch. And this can only come from including your friends and family in the Christmas photos whether they are outside in those wonderful lights or inside, in tyour cozy and warm home.

Glitter festive christmas lights background

Zoom in/out – You can create other effects by shooting with a zoom lens and a long exposure. During the exposure, focus on the center of the lights and manually zoom your focal length out from close up to wide angle.

Drones - These are very trendy right now. You can definitely take some great aerial views of Christmas lights using drones.

Santa Claus and little girl

Indoors - When you're sure you've covered up all the beauty of Christmas lights at nighttime, move inside. The Christmas trees and all other decorations too deserve to be captured by your camera.

Photo credits: Konstantin Yuganov, Inara Prusakova, Olesya Turchuk, Rfischia, Rinofelino.

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December 31, 2019


Very ineterresting article, thank you.

December 24, 2019


Great tips, beautiful photos. Thanks :)

December 17, 2019


The Santa Claus image evokes the spirit of Christmas very well, great images and a useful blog. :)

December 16, 2019


Excellent choice of photos to illustrate a well-written blog! Perhaps I'll make a conscious effort to shoot the holiday scenes this year. Merry Christmas! William

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