Have you been trying to get a good photo of your kids in front of the Christmas tree lights but cannot figure out what settings to use on your camera? This is the tutorial you need! Let me show you a quick and easy way to photograph your Christmas tree lights at night for a magical Christmas photo! Let me start this off by saying that I am not a professional photographer. I don’t claim to be and never will be professional. But if you’re an average mamarazzi like me with a DSLR camera who likes to take pictures as a hobby, this is a good tip for you.
Here is my Christmas tree photo of my son in front of our tree at night.
Here is another similar shot I took that night.
No, my tree doesn’t have a million lights on it. I’m not Clark Griswolding it up over here.
I am not sure how many lights are on my tree, honestly, but I can promise you it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Want to know how I got my photo to look like that?
Here is what I did: I turned my camera on Manual mode, set my ISO at 3200 (set yours as high as it will go) then I propped my camera up on the back of the sofa since I don’t have a tripod. I focused the camera on the tree and then cranked my shutter speed down to 1/30th. For those of you scratching your head and going “shutterspeed??” here is the dial you turn to change your shutter speed if you have a Canon camera:
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After you change your ISO and focus on the tree crank that dial on down til you get in the 1/30th range.
Even though the camera was telling me the pics would be way overblown I snapped them anyway, and this is what turned out. Here’s some amazing news…those pics above are straight outta the camera!
Here are the details on the settings used on these photos in case you’re interested. (My Amazon affiliate links)
Canon dSLR camera
f/1.8 (I love this lens)
Update: I tried to take pics of G in front of the tree every year for a few years to measure his growth.
2010 & 2011
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Thank you for sharing this tutorial!
haha , my camera , awesome =]
that is an awesome photo. thanks for sharing what settings to use.i have a new lens to try out:)
Thank you so much for this easy tutorial. I just took the most gorgeous photos of our tree and our home lit up at night!!!
Gorgeous! I found this through Pinterest, and I’m very impressed. I’m a camera enthusiast while my hubby studied ohotojournalism. I’m hoping he still has the chops to get a photo like this of our girls!
Sue at the Little Shack says
Fabulous!!! Thanks for the photo info and love your tree!!!
My Mercurial Nature says
Oooh, I wonder if I have that little dial thingy on my camera! Your pic looks fantastic!
Very nice shot and thank you this was very helpful. I just got the T2i but had no clue how to use it properly.
Debra @ Common Ground says
thanks for the great how-to. I have a T2i, so I’m going to give it a try! Love your blog! come visit sometime. xo
This was posted on the Photojojo twitter! (just letting you know in case you didn’t know)
Kim @ Cheap Chic Home says
Thanks so much for the tips, Beth. I have a nice camera on my Xmas list and am crossing my fingers!
Jen Lossing, The Consigner Designer says
Thanks for the tip. This picture looks so magical. I just love it. I was browsing through your blog. Love your style. I am your newest follower!
Apparently you do not get the same results if you can’t get your aperture down to 1.8. The lowest mine goes on this lens is 3.5 and my shot is good (way better than ones I’ve taken in the past) but does not quite have the same million light effect.
FYI for others 🙂
I can’t get this picture at all or anything close. It is driving me crazy. The lowest my aperture goes is 3.5. I turn my flash off, get my ISO to 1600 and my shutter speed to 1/30th but it is not turning out as bright. I didn’t think the number of lights on my tree matter but I am thinking it does. Or maybe there is another setting on my camera that is set wrong. I don’t know! Maybe you can help. I have a Nikon DX 3000.
I am so going to try this! TFS
Kim Hill says
Try ISO 100, F11 at 20 seconds on a tripod. You may need a bit shorter/longer time depending on the amount of ambient light. Obviously any people would be blurred, but if you are strictly going for the starbursts of light, then this will yield the best results with minimal grain. 🙂
I love this picture!!!! Thank you for sharing the photo and how you got it to look so beautiful!!!!
I tried this and could not get it to work. My NIkon D60 only goes to 1600 ISO and the aperature of 3.5. I had it set on manual and the camera would not let me take the pic (I know I am sooooooooo an amateur. Now I cannot get my camera back to taking nice quick shots of my granddaughter! Anyone out there that can get me back to autuo or program for quick pics w/o flash. My daughter starts her sports soon and I need to take more fast action pics! Thanks, Mary B
Thank you! I used my 35mm lens and got the shot I have been trying to get! You are awesome. (and my tree doesn’t have that many lights, either!).
Thank u for this info. I just got a nikon d3100 so i am super excited to give this a try. I still have my tree up so i can try it on that. Waiting to have christmas with our son who just returned from his year long tour in afghanistan.
These are beautiful. Will have to try this in 2012 with both my SLR and my Canon SX30IS. I too am not Pro just love to take pics.
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I went to one of their workshops as well – 2 total workshops changed everything, and Christmas trees were the main reason for the class! Nice to see this, and awesome pic – caught my eye on Pinterest first, led me here.
I love christmas and have been wanting to take pictures like this forever. Thank you so much for sharing! Beautiful picture! I recently got a canon T3i and I’m really enjoying it. I’m going to try this at christmas time this year. Thank you!
I tried this last year and no such luck, set it just like yours but my boys were blurry because they were moving, hard to keep a 2&3 year olds to stand still… The low shutterspeed made them blurry, or that’s my armature guess anyway. Did your little one keep still?
What lense are you using? My canon T2i came with one that only goes down to 3.5 and I’m in the process of looking for a lens that can take pictutes at a much faster speed. Is it a fixed focal length lens, wide angle, normal range, etc? Love this picture and would love to do something similar for Christmas pictures this year.
An amazing photo! Thank You for the tip! I am going to try this around my house practicing for the Holidays!
Katie Eklund says
Hello, my name is Katie, I am almost 18 years old and starting my senior year in high school. I really enjoy photography, so I plan on having my own business some day after I graduate. But I would also love to do more than just photography. I have always had great ideas for crafting. For example I love to mod podge tables and stuff. I know I am not that experienced in crafting as well as others, but I was just curious how you started crafting? Also how you became so good at it?! Ha ha! If you could get back to me when ever you have time, with any advice or anything, that would be wonderful! 🙂 Thanks!
I tried this last night and am having a hard time getting my son in focus. Someone mentioned using my AF assist beam on my camera to help..
Would also love to see other peoples glowing tree pictures!
Liz Lopez says
what a great idea! thanks for sharing this wonderful info.
These pics are great! gonna have to try this, not much of a photographer. actually don’t use my camera much at all, more of a cell phone camera user, but this – I gotta try! Thanks!
Cool! I just pinned your tree to my Christmas Mood Board! 🙂
Angela @ Cottage Magpie says
This is such a great post! I pinned it last year and now I’m all excited to make use of it this season!
I was wondering — we have a linky party going on where we’re kicking off the season with inspiration from year’s past. I’d love it if you wanted to link this post up!
Wonderful picture….I love it…have to try it this year with my 5 neices and nephews!! Thanks for the tips!
This was very helpful to get a photo of my tree. BEST tree photo I’ve taken in years! Attempted to get a photo of my son in front of the tree, and that, unfortunately, totally backfired (everything in a blur — a glowing tree that was bokeh instead, without changing a single setting).
cannot. wait. to try this. 🙂