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 light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/2.8 1/15 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/4 1/8 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/5.6 1/4 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/8 1/2 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/11 1 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/16 2 seconds ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

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 light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/2.8 1/6 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

f/5.6 1/4 second ISO 1600

Christmas tree light photography tutorial by Stacey Haslem

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 light photography tutorial 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 and I can show you how!
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