Christmas lights photography tips

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The countdown is on!

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to think about this years Christmas card with your bub, paired with christmas lights it can be cuteness overload.

Not sure how to achieve that look? I have put together a simple guide and what to think of.

Yes, it can be frustrating so you’ll need to wear your patience pants, but also a lot of fun setting it up and seeing the amazement in your bub eyes.

baby christmas lights

Setting the scene

Pick out what you want as your background, for these shots its best to have a plain background so the subject really stands out and pops. You would also like to have a darker room so the lights can glow and pop in the photo.

Decide if you like the multicoloured lights or just the plain white, they do have very different effects if you are going after more monochrome look or pops of colour. Last year my Christmas card photo was with white lights which really matched her black and white outfit, although I didn’t pay much attention to her pink and white onesie underneath, but you can fix that up later.

Once you have chosen where you want to take the photo, you might need to think about the flooring. If you have white or bright floors like tiles, you will get a lot of reflection and the light will bounce off and you might not be what you’re after, so you might want to cover them with some lino or darker board so it’s absorbing the light which can have a more desired effect. You should definitely play around with it.

Sometimes it might be better to do it later in the day for lighting being a bit more moody and darker, but choose a time when your bub is calm and happy otherwise you won’t get the shots you want if they’re tired or hungry.

And of course – deciding on the best outfit to compliment the look you are after, and to hide that nappy that can be a little unsightly in photos. There are some great christmas outfits out there, and the cutest bloomers.

It’s always a good idea to get some inspiration on Pintrest so you can decide on style, background, outfit and how you want the lights positioned for an overall look.

Make sure you play around with the setup before you are going to place in your little one. I placed a teddy in position, so I could test lighting and results before the live one. You can look at stringing lights up and around your baby, but it might look a bit forced, so decide if you are after them on the ground around them, and just play around with your set. I think the hardest task I found was keeping the lights out of her mouth and get her to pose the way I wanted. Oh yes, they will try and put all the lights in there, even despite your best efforts.

Camera or iPhone/ Android

I used my Cannon DSLR however switched between my iPhoneX (which was brand new) and the result was still pretty good without my Cannon, however you may just need a bit more light as phones aren’t as good in low-light but you can play around with that a bit as you test and you need to keep very still otherwise they will blur with movement, you could get a tripod for your phone there are some great ones around that aren’t too expensive on Amazon. You want to ensure you have your flash off, using a flash will eliminate the glow coming from the Christmas lights and that is what you are after.

The settings used on my DSL were:

ISO 1500 | 1/125 sec | f/3.5 | auto White Balance

Your ISO should be around 1000-1250 for photos with Christmas lights, but I wanted to still get detail on her face so I let a bit more light in.


This is where it becomes tricky, especially when shooting in low-light if you’ve tried to take pictures before of the ever wriggling and curious hands, they never stay in the place you want.

Isla was 9 months old when I did our shoot, crawling and wanting to get at everything (my camera lens cover which was with me not where I wanted her to sit) rather than what I wanted her to do, it was pretty tricky. In the beginning of my shoot I really tried to get her how I wanted from what I’d seen on Pintrest, half way through, I just let her explore and snapped away – they were my best shots.

To get her distracted enough I let her play with some baubles that I had cleaned and knew were safe and wouldn’t break easily, so she would focus on looking at the lights but not eating them. She still did try and stick them in her mouth.

You could also put down some of their favourite snacks that they can pick off around them, but still be interested enough in the lights. You could always shoot your bub from behind, have snacks in their lap and it looks like they’re interested in the snacks, and even call to them and they turn their head around so you have a side profile in the lights.

Every time I photograph Isla there is something that makes her laugh, when she was 8 months old it would be counting to five, when she was 9 months old it would be a fake sneeze, it does get harder the older they are, I think I’m up to singing heads shoulders knees and toes, but in that comes the actions which is very hard to shoot.

Just keep taking photos, they can move so fast, get as many as you can – you only need one, right. Try different angles and draw their attention to different areas.


Every photographers best friend, post production. You can use PicMonkey, Canva or others like Snapseed to edit out any wetness, edit any of those snacks that might have made it in the shot and get colours right.

Play around with the colour, brightness and contrast or even using the provided filters and maybe black and white versions. You could spend hours just playing around in these apps.

Additional tips

Keep food and snacks handy, favourite bottle or cup. Use a favourite toy to get your child’s attention, take a break to inject some fun for your bub too, and most of all be patient and make it a fun experience for both of you.

For more great articles on photographing children and babies you need to check out Click Love Grow, they have some great courses and free challenges which really helped me when I was shooting Isla in the beginning.

Good luck and I’d love to see your final pics – share with us on Instagram #sasslikeisla

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