Tips for Photographing Holiday Lights


The holidays are magical- Christmas music, beautifully decorated trees, and lots of pretty lights! As parents, your probably snapping away on your phone or camera to capture the kids in front of all of the holiday decor- but we all know how difficult it can be to get the perfect photo in front of all of those lights! So, we turned to local Bronx photographer Richard Rosario to share some of his tips for photographing Christmas lights.


Lighting is Key

If possible, use natural light. Natural light photographs best on your kids’ faces. If your tree happens to be next to a natural source of light (like a large window or a door), position your kids between the light and the tree. Ideally, you want your kids between the tree and the source of natural light so the light hits their faces. You might consider moving your tree just for photos if there’s no window or door in a good location. Photos in front of the Christmas tree often come out too dark or too bright because the lights on the tree are competing with all of the other lights in the room. If you do not have a natural source of light, try turning on only the lights that will be behind your camera. This way you will illuminate your kids’ faces.

Say No To Flash

Turn off your flash. Your flash is one of those competing sources of light as mentioned above. If left on, it will dim the tree lights in your photo. It will also cast an unnatural yellowish color to your scene. So, leave the flash off, and your result will be a twinkly tree and warm faces.

Step Back

Have kids sit or stand a few feet in Front of the Tree. We all tend to put our kids right up next to the tree. Sometimes, practically under it! If you move them a few feet away, you’ll be able to see more of the lights on your tree. This will also keep the focus on your children. If you’re able to manipulate the settings on your camera, you can adjust the focus and blur the background for a soft, hazy effect.

Get Low

Shoot low to the ground. You want to avoid looking down at your kids. Place the camera at or near the level of their heads. If there’s a large difference in the height of your kids, consider having your tallest child sit and and shortest child stand. This always looks better than having someone “hunching” into the picture, or having an unhappy baby wriggling to escape a sibling’s grasp.

Keep it Steady

Keep the camera steady. Use a tripod if possible. If not, use a stack of books or a chair to steady your camera. No matter how sure-handed you are, you’re human and you will move, which can cause your image to blur, especially in low light.

Look Around

Remove the clutter and “noise”. We’ve all seen those selfies with the toilet bowl in the background. I’m sure your Christmas tree is not in the bathroom , but you should still take a moment to look around at the whole scene. Is there clutter in the background? In the foreground? Pick up that empty soda can and torn wrapping paper before taking your pictures. Also, avoid dressing your children in busy patterns, as this, too, can distract focus from the main attraction : your kids!

Grab Your Camera

If you can, use an actual camera. While there are many relatively impressive camera phones, a simple point-and-shoot will still probably do a better job. Set the AV number to the lowest possible on your camera. If your pictures are too dark, open up your aperture as wide as it will go. Then try raising your ISO a little higher, then start opening up your shutter. Take a few practice shots with a doll if you don’t want to make your kids sit through your settings experiments.

For more technical tips for those of you with an actual camera, check out Richard’s recent post on his blog:

For more info on Richard Rosario Photography, visit or check him out on Facebook and Instagram.

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