How To Photograph Holiday Lights At Night

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‘Tis the season… to photograph all the colorful Christmas lights!

The neighbor's ceramic pig wearing a Santa hat. If you’re anything like us, then you probably enjoy driving to other neighborhoods to see the many ways that people have chosen to decorate their houses, their lawns, and their trees with twinkling lights and other holiday yard art.

We especially like driving through the “nicer” neighborhoods and admiring their handiwork… like George Jones’s house.

You may recall that WE typically don’t decorate for Christmas, yet we never cease to be amazed by the lengths that OTHER people go to to light up the night around their houses!

And every town has its own share of over-the-top Christmas light decorators, right?

We’re always on the lookout for “that guy” each year. (See links below to find “that guy” in your own neighborhood!)

Some think of it as the Clark Griswold effect… others see it as simply a beautiful expression of creativity. Either way, it’s a joy get out and about taking in the sights and sounds of the holiday season.

CLICK to hear the audio of Clark Griswold explaining the number of lights he used to decorate his house with... from the movie Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase.

Listen to the theme song from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation“.

Photographing Christmas

This year, why not photograph some of the colorful decorations seen in your neck of the woods?

Check out the following tips for photographing Christmas lights and holiday decorations…


For the most vivid pictures of Christmas lights, here are a few tricks. That is, unless you LIKE the blurry effects you can get just by pointing and shooting!

Blurry Christmas tree lights. Blurry Christmas lights at the home of George Jones.


Shoot at Dusk — the small amount of additional light will bring out the colors and finer details while preserving that natural glow.

Use Your Camera’s “Night Mode” — this means your flash will not fire, so remember to rest your camera on a steady surface or tripod to allow for the longer exposure.

Focus On Something Dark First — try focusing (by depressing your shutter button half-way down) first on something dark within your subject area. Then, with the shutter still half-way depressed, physically aim your camera at the subject entirely and press the shutter the remainter of the way down.

Manually Select A Lower ISO — by choosing a lower film speed (100 or lower), you will get crisper nighttime photos… unless you move during shooting. Such is why you must always use a tripod for night photography — due to the long exposures.

Manually Choose Your Exposure — Most cameras allow you to manually change your camera’s exposure compensation. Try -2. Here’s an exposure chart to consider.

The entrance to George Jones's house. George Jones house in Nashville, Tennesse.

Professional Tips For Photographing Holiday Lights

How To Find Holiday Light Displays In Your Area:

Check out this photo gallery of houses decorated with Christmas lights from 1998 to the present. (There are literally thousands of pictures of homes decked in holiday lights here!)

Use this Christmas Light Finder to locate lighted holiday displays all over the country.