Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle

by Stacey Haslem

Have you ever wondered how to get the lights on your tree to ‘sparkle’? The trick is all in your aperture setting! Below I took a picture of my Christmas tree using several different apertures. I included 100 percent crops so you can see the transformation of the lights.

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/2.8 1/15 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/4 1/8 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/5.6 1/4 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/8 1/2 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/11 1 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/16 2 seconds ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/22 4 seconds ISO 1600

You can see at f/11, I get a clear starburst from the lights aka ‘sparkly’ lights! These were all shot at 16mm, but the same principles apply with any lens. Below are examples shot with a macro lens.

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/2.8 1/6 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/5.6 1/4 second ISO 1600

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

f/32 10 seconds ISO 1600

Other tips when photographing your tree include:

  1. Pull out a tripod! Look at my shutter speeds. It would be impossible to hand hold my camera without getting motion blur.
  2. Check your histogram. This was one of those situations that my camera meter wasn’t accurate. According to it, I was overexposing by two full stops!
  3. Use more light. If you want portraits by a ‘sparkly’ tree, you are going to need another light source. With f/stops this high, you will need extra light and most likely a high ISO to speed up your shutter enough to prevent motion blur.
  4. Change your metering. When taking pictures of kids decorating the tree, meter off of the spot you want properly exposed (and remember to check your histogram and blinkies). This is usually the face or maybe a hand hanging an ornament.
  5. Play with your white balance. A warm white balance can give your image a cozy, Christmas feel. While a cool white balance will give you a wintery, Christmas feel.  Of course you can always convert to black and white as I often do!

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photoStacey Haslem, California
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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Spurred by the inspiration of her four children, Stacey Haslem captures the beauty and intimacy that flourishes within her own home. That inspiration, along with her love of manipulating available light, translates into fine art, portraiture and lifestyle pieces. While she enjoys color in the occasional image, she believes more beauty can often be unveiled once it is stripped away. Stacey favors a Nikkor 35mm and 45mm tilt shift on her Nikon D4 or D700. She edits her images primarily in Lightroom, but enjoys Photoshop for it’s finishing touches. Stacey also takes joy in being a rotating instructor for the Mastering Manual Exposure course and providing mentoring services.

Read all photography tutorials by Stacey Haslem.

Christmas Tree Lights | Tips For Getting Your Images to Sparkle photo

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