Photo Tips – Christmas Tree Lights

Christmas tree lights are one of my favourite things to photograph at Christmastime!  The tree makes a perfect backdrop for holiday photos.  I thought I would share some fun ideas I have tried with my camera settings to get different looks for my photos.

One of the best tricks up my sleeve is a 50mm prime lens.  It gives that beautiful blurred background and the soft bokehs.  Bokehs are the out-of-focus light spots that you can create with your lens by fixating on your main subject.  You can achieve the look with other lens’ and you can work with what you have.  The 50mm just makes you look like an expert photographer!  They are a small investment and wonderful for portrait photos.


Have you ever wanted to achieve the starburst effect on your Christmas tree lights?  Here is how…you will need a tripod or a tabletop for steadiness, and settings are as follows:  ISO 100 – 200, 25 sec shutter speed, f22 for aperture.

  My setting are very similar for these two photographs and the larger the bokeh depends on the focus.  I have switched my camera to manual focus here and blurred the lights.  Photo on the left settings:  ISO 200, 1/20 sec shutter speed, f1.8

Photo on the right settings:  ISO 200, 1/40 sec shutter speed, f1.8

These three photos all have the same settings except for the shutter speed:  ISO 200, 2.5 – 6.7 seconds, f22.  The shutter speed or time varies to achieve the different pattern in the lights.  The pattern is made by very carefully moving your camera on the tripod to achieve the effect you want.  The first one looks like roses to me, second one is hearts and third is circles.  These all make a great Christmas card photo!

Here are some other ideas on what to do with those beautiful lights on our tree!  I try to use our tree as a backdrop when I am photographing at Christmastime.  I am not gonna lie to you… I am very strategic about putting my subject in front of the tree, it doesn’t just happen by accident!


Putting the people we love in front of the tree is always a favourite of mine!  Lauren is doing some Christmas baking and we know it is Christmas just by the beautiful lights in the background.


A silhouette of young love in front of the tree is fun to try.  Have your subjects hold very still because you will need to have the shutter speed a bit longer.  The reason you need to have the shutter speed longer is to achieve those starbursts with a very tiny opening on your shutter (f22).  They didn’t seem to mind standing there like that.

Settings:  ISO100, 8 sec, f22.


This one is a bit of a different angle.  Focus on your subjects eyes and you will see the lights reflecting in them and the lights from the tree illuminate your subject’s face.


This one is very similar to the couple one.  You can see a bit of movement on Grant’s arm because the shutter was open for a bit, but I did achieve the beautiful starburst.      Settings:    ISO100, 15 sec, f22


This one is similar, but yet a bit different as there aren’t  starbursts in this one, but Grant is sharper.  Settings:  ISO1000, 1/20 sec, f4


This is one of my favourite Christmas photos and I just ordered this in a large canvas to hang over my fireplace.  I will never get tired of this photo!  Grant’s sweet face is illuminated by my cell phone hiding in the book.  Settings:  ISO1000, 1/40 sec, f1.8

Merry Christmas!



3 thoughts on “Photo Tips – Christmas Tree Lights

  1. Love your ideas, tips, and the photos are exquisite! Thank you. I will take more time to take notes later as I’m still a big novice on manual settings, and they still scare me!

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