Monday, December 2, 2013

Night Photography ~ Crazy Christmas Light Notes

Where I live, Broken Arrow, OK,
we have the amazing Christmas lights at Rhema Bible College (here).
(Amazing right?  I can't wait to try this myself!)
My goal this year is to brush up on how to photograph
outdoor Christmas lights.  So in this post I'm sharing the tips I've fold 
so I can easily review them in the future, or on the run, here they are ~

Recommended SLR camera settings (RE here)
  • 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're not sure what I mean by exposure we have a tutorial on it at: How to use manual mode. 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. 
Other websites to check:  and .  Feel free to bookmark this post for your reference too...I may periodically update information.
I'm hoping these settings can also help
when photographing other light sources outside after dark.
Your suggestions are appreciated
so leave a comment with you advice...that would be great!
And please check back to see my shots posted soon.

Happy Click'n!


  1. Have fun with your photo shoot! I don't agree with the 800 ISO limit as a hard and fast rule. It really depends upon your camera and how well the sensor minimizes digital noise. Also keep in mind that digital editing programs (e.g., Elements) can greatly reduce recorded noise, particularly if you run your images through Camera RAW. Taking images in the RAW format instead of jpeg is also helpful. Of course, if you are using a tripod, it is best to go with the lower ISO settings and avoid noise issues entirely.

    And for a starburst effect on Christmas lights, you want to use a high number f-stop, like f/22 or higher. Don't forget about white balance too. Take your camera off automatic white balance if you don't shoot RAW format and will adjust white balance in Camera RAW. It's better to try the incandescent or fluorescent settings.

    1. Thank you Donna for your comments! I always appreciate your advice and suggestions!


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