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How to photograph Christmas trees at night

How to photograph Christmas trees at night in the dark!

When I take photos of my kids in front of the Christmas tree, it really doesn’t matter what time of day it is, I pretty much use the same steps. And this is because I’m always trying to capture that glow of the tree. However, when I take pictures of Christmas tress at night, I ONLY have the glow to work with. So somehow I need to use that glow for ALL the lighting. This is how I utilize that glow specifically for darker pictures and how to photograph Christmas trees at night.

RELATED: How to photograph Christmas trees in the daylight

How to photograph Christmas trees at night in the dark!

How to photograph Christmas trees at night:

1. Turn off your flash!

The flash will cast ugly shadows all over your pictures and steal away the glow of the tree. Don’t use it. In fact, NEVER use it! Instead of providing light from your actual camera, you are going to use the light of your tree to light up your photo.

2. Turn your ISO all the way up.

Mine goes up to 6400 (I use a Canon EOS Rebel T3i). In the dark, because I usually have more than one person in my photos, I usually need the highest ISO I can get. My ISO was set on 6400 for these photos. I cleaned up the grain in post processing. If you can get away with it, I’d recommend trying to keep it at 3200, because you can clean up the noise a little better.

RELATED: My photography gear

3. Turn your aperture down.

I prefer to take these nighttime photos with my 50mm f/1.8 lens, but I recently broke that lens (*tear… dropped it and it split in two!) so this year I’m using my 35mm f/2 lens. Whatever you have, turn the aperture down LOW! 1.8 and 2.0 are both pretty low apertures, but if you are still using your kit lens, you might not be able to go very low. (I’d love to see what the 50mm f/1.4 lens could do!)

In these photos, my aperture was actually set on 2.8. I had a little higher since the girls were moving around the tree and I wanted them both in focus. But if I had remembered, I would have turned it all the way down to 2.0 when I was only photographing one at a time. Instead I had more of a think-fast-and-shoot photoshoot!

4. Adjust your lighting.

Turn off all your lights if you want a really magical glow! When you photograph Christmas trees at night, let the tree be the one and only light!

5. Position your subjects.

For silhouettes, position your subjects in front of your tree.

To light up your subjects with the tree, shift them over to the side of the tree! This allows the Christmas lights to light up their faces!

6. Use a Tripod.

I have a pretty steady hand and like to try different angles and focus points, so I don’t use a Tripod for these. But it your shutter speed is so low that you are getting blurry pictures, try steadying the camera with a Tripod. (I linked my Tripod!)

RELATED: How to photograph Christmas trees in the daylight

How to photograph Christmas trees at night in the dark!

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How to photograph Christmas trees at night in the dark!

How to photograph Christmas trees at night in the dark!

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  • Dassy Eilfort

    Thank you for the clear instructions, step by step. 😉
    A few questions:
    One is, my lens is a kit lens, it only goes to F3.5 for the lowest aperture, which lens would you recommend I get for beginners but something that I can experiment and take great night photos (I have a sony a6000). Also, you said that you would have put the aperture to 2.0 for one child and a bit higher for more than one child? why is that? Another thing I was wondering, my ISO goes a lot higher than 6400, when would I use the higher settings? (Just thought about if it’s outdoors, and right after sunset when it’s not all the way dark but still a bit of color in the sky, do you put the settings in between – wondering if that’s a general rule for lighting?

    Thank you in advance! 🙂