A Little Fun with Christmas Tree Lights

creative photograph of christmas lights.

Before you completely take down that Christmas tree have some fun with it first! Using a long exposure and some camera movement you can create these vibrant abstract patterns. Kids love doing this! There’s no end to the designs you can create! This works with single colored lights too, but of course it’s not as colorful.

A few of the words behind the photosYou’ll need:

  • a nearly naked Christmas tree with only the twinkle lights left on it, in a reasonably dark room
  • a camera that allows you to manually set the aperture and shutter speed
  • a tripod
  • a sense of creative adventure!

Easy directions:

  1. Remove any ornaments, garlands, tinsels, etc., so that only the lights are left on the tree.
  2. Turn off all other lights in the room. This works best if the room is dark, but it doesn’t have to be pitch black. That said, working at night is great.
  3. Attach your camera to a tripod that has a head that can move in all directions.
  4. Place the camera close enough to the tree, or zoom your lens, so just a portion of your tree lights FILLS your viewfinder.
  5. With your camera in MANUAL mode set your shutter speed to something SLOW like a 1/2 second. And your aperture to something around 4 or 5.6. Note both these settings are estimates to get you started. Depending on the brightness of your lights and the conditions in your home you may want a slower or shorter shutter speed, or a smaller aperture. You may have to experiment (In fact I encourage you to!) to get the effect you want.
  6. Loosen your tripod head so that it can move freely. Be sure to hold on to that camera! We don’t want it to flop over and it will the minute you let go of it. Trust me.
  7. Start moving the camera in a variety of directions – up and down, side to side. While still moving press the shutter release button and keep moving the camera the entire time the shutter is open. Do not stop until after you hear the shutter close again.

Experiment with different aperture/shutter settings. The key is using a very slow shutter speed so set that first and then adjust your aperture until it creates bright crisp colors with good strong blacks. Also experiment with movements. Zooming your lens during the exposure will create a starburst effect like this.

Creative patterns made with Christmas tree lights christmaslightabstracts-IMG_8091

christmaslightabstracts-IMG_8056

christmaslightabstracts-IMG_8427 creative photograph of christmas lights.

Creative patterns made with Christmas tree lights

Below is the image above, flipped and layer-blended in Photoshop.

Creative ways to photograph holiday lights

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A few of the words behind the photos I created this little icon to indicate where I've included some technical or practical background information on how a photo or series was created. Go ahead, geek out.