How to Take a Great Photo of Your Christmas Tree

It’s not easy to take a great photo of your Christmas tree, and their size doesn’t help. This is my Christmas Tree (the kids decorated it!).

To give as level a playing field as possible I’ve taken these images in jpeg form and there’s no post processing. They are straight out of the camera. This way it’s just about how to take the photo and nothing else to distract us!

This method is also best used with a camera that gives you full manual control – control over Aperture and Shutter speed (you have AV, TV and M on the camera top dial).

I’ll tell you how I take a photo of a Christmas tree, then you can tweak and change stuff as you want. It’s all about testing and finding the effect that you like the most.

Taking the Photo

I find it’s best to take the photo in the dark……… well only with the tree lights on! I turn off all other lights in the room and close the door over so you have no light leaking in from other sources.

While tree lights really do give off a fair bit of light, you are still working in very low light so a tripod is essential. Or any other way you can find to keep the camera absolutely still.

Because there is no movement I used Aperture priority (AV on the mode dial) to take the photos. This lets me control the Aperture (amount of light getting into the camera) and the camera works out the Shutter speed for me.


Low light

Because it’s low light I higher the sensitivity of the camera to light, so I can catch it more easily. To do this I higher the ISO to 400. Sometimes the ISO has a button on top of the camera, or it can be in the menus…

Next, look at your composition. Which view of your tree do you like the most? Take a photo and see what your composition looks like. Doesn’t matter about settings yet, you just want to see what it looks like and find the best view. If you’re near a window do you need to draw the curtains? Do you need to move a coffee table? etc…

Now we can look at the settings. I always start with a test shot, something around f11. Check your focus and take the shot. Remember there will be a fairly decent shutter speed due to the low light, so the shutter will stay open for a couple of seconds. You don’t want the camera moving while it takes the photo. You can very carefully press the shutter button, or you can use the camera’s self timer and not be anywhere near it!

sparkly tree

Keep testing until you get what you want

Ok so you now have a test photo. You can play around with the Aperture, the lower the number the more light you let in. And therefore the higher the number the less light you let in. I like the photo quite dark so I go for a higher number, but play around until you find what you like!

If you take the photo between f16-f22 then you get some really nice star bursts on the tree lights for instance (this also works with sunsets).

If you go the other way and go to f1.8 then you can get whatever is near you in focus, like a nice bauble. And the background will become blurry (bokeh) like the tree lights blurred in the background.

This is where you can get creative, like this very blurry arty one!

So to recap:bokeh

make it dark
use a tripod
use Aperture Priority Mode (AV)
watch your focus
watch your compostition

But if you have any tips on how you take a great photo of your Christmas tree then please let me know in the comments. I’m really looking forward to seeing your Christmas Trees!  And don’t forget to Post a link in the comments or you can post them on The Photographer Blog Facebook Page.


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