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.
f/2.8 1/15 second ISO 1600
f/4 1/8 second ISO 1600
f/5.6 1/4 second ISO 1600
f/8 1/2 second ISO 1600
f/11 1 second ISO 1600
f/16 2 seconds ISO 1600
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.
f/2.8 1/6 second ISO 1600
f/5.6 1/4 second ISO 1600
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!
Thanks so much, Stacey, I can’t wait to put your tips to good use! Have you taken your own awesome tree light pics? We’d love to see them – share with us in the comments!
Stacey Haslem, California
Member and Customer Care Coordinator
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Stacey, a Modesto, CA resident, has been a lover of photography since the 8th grade but “didn’t really start to delve into this art until the last couple of years.” With her Nikon D700 and assortment of prime lenses, her photographical motivation is to capture the essence of her children which are most commonly her subjects. When not divulging in photography, she enjoys the occasional good book, sleeping in, and spending time with friends, usually a lunch date or a movie. Stacey also admits to loving her huge washer and dryer where she can get the piles of laundry for her husband and 4 children done “splikity split.”