How To Photograph Christmas Tree & Lights With iPhone

How To Photograph Christmas Tree & Lights With iPhone

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Decorated Christmas tree on blurred background.
Christmas tree and Christmas lights are interesting photography subjects.

The most magical time of the year is so close again. Christmas songs are played everywhere and most probably, you already have your Christmas tree at home or you have already seen one somewhere else. The Holiday season calls for a lot of pictures be it yourself or not. But how will you give justice to such perfection in front of you when you don’t have a DSLR with you?

Well, you don’t really have to own a DSLR as long as you have your iPhone with you. Yes, you read it right. Your iPhone could be the next big thing when it comes to taking Christmas tree and lights photographs. The next question is, how will you do it? Here are some of the best ways on how you can seamlessly capture a Christmas postcard-worthy Christmas tree and Christmas lights image with your iPhone. 

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1. Let the light in. 

In order for your iPhone’s camera to the darker and illuminated areas, a slow exposure is needed. So, the very first thing that you have to do is to turn off the flash in case you have opened it. The flash will confuse the camera which will eventually ruin everything in your image. 

You may set your camera to night mode or could download third-party apps to slow down your shutter speed and perfectly capture the Christmas tree or Christmas lights at night. When shooting, you have to make sure that you are holding your iPhone as steady as you can to keep everything in place. 

If you have enough budget, you can invest in a good-quality tripod to make sure that your camera is stable. You can get this Fugetek tripod for iPhone, which you can also use as a selfie stick. But if you don’t have the budget, sit or kneel and hold your iPhone with both hands to get the maximum stability of your body.

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Read: How to capture stars with iPhone [Tutorial]

2. Zoom In

Christmas tree light
Zooming in gives you a finer detail of your subject.

If you want a social-media worthy Christmas tree and Christmas lights image, take various images in different scales and angles rather than sharing the same old image with the same angle over and over again. To give your shot a tweak, try taking some close up and standard whole-tree long shots instead. 

Another thing that you can do when trying to capture the reflections in shiny lights is to tap the part of your iPhone’s camera screen where you want your camera to focus. Your iPhone’s camera will already do the rest of the job such as setting the exposure and so much more. 

If you want to take better quality close-up photos without zooming in, you can always invest in a macro lens. You can get the Moment iPhone camera lens, which can let you zoom in 2x closer than your iPhone camera’s capacity. It also works on single and dual camera smartphones.-

3. Context is key. 

Beautiful happy mother with lher ittle daughter in knit sweater sitting on the background of Christmas interior hugging together and smiling
Give your shot a different element by including people in it.

You might be so happy with how your Christmas tree has turned out with the decorations and all but would the design still matter after 10, 20, 30, or so years? Maybe, not. This means that do not just take a picture of the Christmas tree alone, instead include an element that will make you reminisce about that moment – your family or friends. 

Go ahead and take some shots of your family with your beautiful tree. Do not be afraid of how chaotically beautiful your shot would turn out. Sure enough, you will laugh at it after a few years and you would never feel any regret for doing so. 

4. Manually adjust the exposure and lock your focus.

If you are trying to photograph moving lights, your iPhone’s camera will refocus and readjust its exposure. The best thing that you can do to capture the moving lights is to lock the focus of your iPhone’s camera. You can do this by tapping and holding the area you want to focus on until the AE/AF LOCK appears at the top of your iPhone’s camera screen. The next thing that you have to do is to adjust the exposure by sliding up to add exposure (brighten) or down to underexpose (darken) your scene.

5. Play with Bokeh.

The New year's balls and garland on gold and brown background.
Bokeh is a aesthetic blur that transforms the Christmas lights into out of focus dots.

In photography, Bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a camera. It is the aesthetic blur that transforms the Christmas lights into out of focus dots. 

There are different techniques that you can use to achieve a bokeh shot using your iPhone. Most probably, the easiest thing that you can do is to simply lock the focus of your camera on your watch or have a friend lits his or her phone screen and then raise your phone towards your subject.

Although, you can make sure to capture a beautiful bokeh effect using a macro lens. You can buy the Xenvo iPhone camera lens, which is a macro and wide-angle lens in one.

6. Use the burst mode. 

Capturing the perfect image Christmas tree with Christmas lights is not easy at all. The moving lights alone is already hard to capture. In cases like this, your best option is to use the burst mode feature of your iPhone’s camera. 

Sure, it will take a lot of space in your iPhone’s memory, but this is probably the best way for you to capture every single second. You can just go on and choose which of the images looks best and delete the ones which do not pass your standards later on. 

7. Get low. 

A christmas tree in front of Rockefeller center during christmas holiday
Get low in order to capture the entire tree beautifully.

Including the whole Christmas tree in your shot, most especially when the tree is large is a hard thing to do. Fitting in the tree on your screen would be almost impossible most especially when you take it from a regular straightforward perspective. 

One technique that you can do to capture the entire tree is for you to go low. This means that you hold your phone on the ground and then angle it up to get the full view of the Christmas tree from an amazing and fascinating perspective. You can also use a wide-angle lens to capture a wider view of that scene. We suggest you grab this 3-in-1 iPhone lens kit by Ailun, which has a wide-angle lens, fisheye lens, and macro lens.

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Read: Complete Guide to Close Up iPhone Photography: A Must-Read

8. Shoot in the rain at night.

This idea does not sound exactly good but if you are aiming for a creative shot outdoors with Christmas trees and lights, doing so is exactly what you need. The pouring rain will give your shot a romantic or dramatic effect which will make it stand out from other existing shots. Plus, the reflection of the lights from the water is different. Everything just seems so magical with the pouring rain and reflecting lights. 

When shooting in the rain at night, make sure that you are using your camera’s flash feature to light up the raindrops. Consider also shooting the ground with its amazing color reflections from the Christmas lights that light up the ground and creates an incredible color and detail of your night photos. If you want extra light, use a clip-on selfie light as a secondary source.

9. Check on the lights.

More often than not, in-house lighting is not exactly a friend of photography, unlike Christmas lights. But the problem with Christmas lights is that it can not provide enough light for you to get a clean and crisp image. Camera, most especially with smartphones, greatly depends on light most.

One trick that you can do when it comes to lighting, and when you are indoors where it is dark, is to turn on another phone or a universal clip-on selfie light and use either as a fill light. This will serve as your artificial miniature softbox when taking images of the colorful Christmas lights indoors. If you want to make sure your Christmas lights provide the right kind of light, you can buy a LED strip light with a remote, so you can control the type of lighting for your photos.

This trick works best when you are trying to capture a close up image wherein you can place your light source, which is the other phone, as close as possible to your subject.

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10. Shoot at dusk or dawn. 

Christmas abstract blur background
Shooting either at dusk or dawn is the best time to take Christmas tree and light images.

Most people think that the best time to shoot Christmas trees and lights is when it is completely dark outside. But the truth is, shooting at dusk or dawn is the best thing. This is because, during those times, the natural light is bright enough to lighten the edges of trees and buildings, but not that bright to drown out the artificial lights. Shooting when it is completely dark outside will make the lights appear as if they are floating in the vastness of the dark. 

Read: iPhone Photos in Low Light: Practical Tips and Brilliant Hacks

11. Illuminate dark shadows. 

Beautifully decorated house with a Christmas tree ipodarkami underneath
Your subject should have enough light sources around it to get a stunning image.

Shooting the Christmas tree and lights indoors can be a little bit tricky because the lights are not powerful enough to illuminate what surrounds it. You may capture a stunning picture of your Christmas tree but the rest of the space in the image will look misty and dark. 

In order to at least balance things, you can place a lamp at an area that will not be included in the image but can still lit up the place. Another thing that you can do is to place a lamp behind your Christmas tree to add depth in as much as it will make your Christmas tree stand out.

Read: 12 best selfie lights for iPhone – 2019 review

12. Use a tripod. 

Carrying a tripod around with you does not exactly sound like a good idea but using one when taking Christmas tree and light images is definitely a must when you want to level up your images. When shooting at scenes with low light, slow shutter speed is needed. If your shutter speed is below 1/60 of a second, then the image could appear blurry when you are holding your camera with your bare hands. 

The ideal shutter speed when shooting Christmas trees or lights is 1/60 of a second. With such in mind, investing in a good quality tripod makes sense if you want to capture high-quality and stunning images.

There are many tripods in the market but always go for the lightweight yet versatile option. That’s why we recommend this iPhone tripod with a phone holder by UBeesize. At only 1.05 lbs, you can carry this around your cabin and take as many family photos as you want.

Of course, you also have to make sure that the tripod fits well for your iPhone for you not to end up getting your phone broken or damaged. If you’re taking photos outside, get this flexible tripod by UBeesize. This can wrap itself around anything, making sure your iPhone won’t topple along with the tripod in case you take pictures in slippery areas or rough terrains.

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13. Choose the right white balance. 

New Year interior with red brick wall background, decorated fir tree with garlands and balls, dark drawer and deer figure
You should have the right white balance to have amazing images.

The outcome of the image you will capture is significantly affected by the white balance you have set manually or the one that your iPhone’s camera has chosen for you if you are using the auto white balance option. Most Christmas lights are colored white, blue, red, or green. Sometimes, it is even rainbow-colored. 

What you have to do is to spare some time to manually cycle through your white-balance settings in order to figure out which options will work best for the scene you are trying to capture. If it happens that you will shoot at dusk and you want the sky to have that extra blue color, your best choice is to use the tungsten or light bulb option on your iPhone. 

14. Use a built-in timer.

Using a tripod is important, but it does not 100% guarantee you that your camera will not shake. Why? Pressing on the capture button can make it shake most especially when you have clumsy hands. 

The best thing that you can do in such situations is to use your iPhone’s internal timer so that you can capture the Christmas tree with lights without directly holding the camera while shooting. You can set your timer delay to more or less 5 seconds so that you can prevent any camera shake from occurring. 

Even better, you can buy a remote shutter button, which you can easily use via connecting it with your iPhone’s Bluetooth. You can use this to give your arms a rest and avoid those blurry Christmas snapshots you never get to upload on Facebook.

15. Blur the lights. 

Closeup of Christmas-tree decorations
Blurring the lights give more emphasis to the other elements in your image.

It is not necessary that Christmas lights should be sharp at all times. It is not necessary that your focus should be on the Christmas tree or Christmas lights. You could give your subject a little variation and focus on something else instead. 

This does not mean that you should remove the Christmas tree or Christmas lights out of the picture. Rather, this implies that you should try setting your focus into something else like a person or an object in the foreground. Doing so will make the Christmas tree and Christmas lights blurred. The two will just serve as somewhat the background which creates a dreamy Christmas atmosphere.

Read: Complete guide to capturing depth in iPhone photography

16. Be a storyteller. 

Beautiful girl surprising her boyfriend with a present.
Let your image speak for itself.

In photography, a good photo has a story to tell. Your holiday image should not just be a mere image but it should tell a story. This is especially needed when you have included people in the image. 

So, what are these people doing in the image that you have captured? Remember, one of the most powerful photography subjects are people. This is because you can easily relate to them. Taking images of their facial expressions and emotions is a big plus when taking images of people. Capturing their natural reaction and all is even better for a holiday image. 

Read: The Best Slideshow Apps of 2020

17. Try editing your images. 

If the images of the Christmas tree and Christmas lights you have taken are not perfect or close to it, then do not be afraid to do some editing. There are a lot of editing apps that you can download on your phone to improve the images you have captured. 

When editing, just make sure that you do not over-edit the image. Keep it as natural looking as possible. Adjust what is needed to enhance the image and not to make it look too much photoshopped.

Read: 20 Best Photo Editing Apps For iPhone, iPad and Android

Conclusion

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Everything just seems so magical and every moment is worth capturing and worth remembering. With the Christmas trees and sparkling lights around, indeed, Christmas is every little thing combined. So, go on, take as many pictures as you can and have all the fun in the world.

Photo Video Lounge is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc.

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