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Tips & Tricks

How to Photograph Christmas Lights With Jay P. Morgan

By Justin Heyes on December 6th 2014

It’s that time of year again where we sing festive songs, celebrate with family, look for the best deals, and hang decorations. In honor of the festive season, Jay P. Morgan from The Slanted Lens has released the following video tutorial on how to photograph Christmas lights.

There are a few basic guidelines to taking great Christmas lights photos. Jay P. breaks down the process in 5 easy-to-follow steps. Here are just a few.

Time of Day

If you have ever tried to take pictures of Christmas lights, they can become almost stark against the black of night. The best time to be out shooting is around dusk or very early morning where the there is little daylight. You will want just enough ambient light where  the house still has detail and separation from the sky.

[REWIND:Creative and Simple Holiday Portrait Ideas]


Don’t Use Flash

Though it may seem like a good idea to illuminate the scene with on/off camera flash, it might ruin your exposure. The Christmas lights have a constant exposure and combined with the surrounding ambient light, there will be plenty of light for a blurry free exposure. If you are interested in learning how to sculpt with flash, keep an eye out for our Lighting 101 course which we are filming right now.


 Camera Settings

White Balance – Tungsten or Daylight
Shoot Raw
ISO – 620 or higher (stay close to your camera’s native ISO for a cleaner image)
Aperture – f/5
Shutter Speed – 1/8th of a second

Watch ‘How to Photograph Christmas Lights’

It is important to remember that you have a very limited timeframe of around 15 minutes to get the shot you desire; otherwise, the ambient light will be too bright or too dark. Experiment with the technique to find out what works for you. Don’t forget to share your images in our Facebook Community Group or our Constructive Critique section.

[Via The Slanted Lens / Images Screen Captures]

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Nice !!

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  2. William Emmett

    Here in New Orleans, at City Park, the puts on a display of lighted objects in the huge oak trees, lagoons, and in the Botanical Gardens. I’ll be shooting these tomorrow evening. I try and post a few after processing. Since all these displays will be static, except the park train, I’ll use my trusty 6D with a Tamron SP 24-70mm VC USM lens, mounted on a tripod. I’ll have to experiment a bit, I don’t like those photos with a aura around the lights. Also, this year the City will have a light show every night on one of the City’s old buildings . A friend has already been there and said it is not a laser show, but a variety of projected images. Should make for some interesting shots.


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  3. Mac MacDonald

    I love this time of year! Happy holidays, everyone!

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