How to photograph holiday lights

Jennifer Wilson

I’m your guide here at Simple Scrapper. Our community helps people find what fills you up and fits your life in memory keeping.

December 7, 2009

The twinkling lights, indoors and out, are part of what make the holidays so special. Whether you’re capturing a menorah, a Christmas tree or icicle lights hanging from your roof, it can be challenging to get the perfect shot. Use these tips to take better photos of holiday lights.

holiday lights collage
1. Shoot at dust, 2. Don’t use flash, 3. Use a tripod, 4. Get out of focus

1. Shoot at dusk

When snapping pics of outdoor photos, don’t wait until its completely dark. Head out at dusk and wait until its just dark enough, but the sky is still full of color and light. You’ll add interest to your image as well as improve your chances to getting a great shot.

2. Don’t use flash

Let the lights themselves provide a warm, magical glow. Look for interesting highlights and shadows, particular when it comes to adding people to the mix. However, if you’re trying to capture a person in front of lights, you might wish to use fill flash.

3. Use a tripod

Whenever we’re talking about low light, and in this case very low light, we need to think about minimizing hand shake. Using a tripod and ever a remote shutter release will minimize your chances of getting blurry photos. If you can’t get stable, try bumping up the ISO.

4. Get out of focus

Write. Click. Scrapbook has a perfectly timed post today.  Autumn Baldwin offers a brief tutorial on snapping artsy, out-of-focus photos of holiday lights. I can’t wait to try this technique myself!

For further reading, check out Strobist’s popular guide and more tips on night photography from Digital Photography School.

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1 Comment

  1. Stan

    great article – tip #1 about shooting at dusk is really good. You need to be able to provide a context for the lights to be in so being able to see and photograph the building, tree, sky,etc is important.



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