Capturing a Starburst Effect with Christmas Lights

December 12, 2012

in Holiday Photography Tips, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

Tips for Capturing a Starburst Effect with your Christmas Lights via iHeartFaces.com


We have all seen all the amazing ways you can create yummy bokeh with Christmas lights, but sometimes you may want to do something a little different!

Another option is to achieve a starburst affect, where the lights each look like they have beautiful beams of light radiating from their cores.  It is a neat way to take the standard Christmas tree shot up a notch!

The creation of this effect is really quite simple.  Here is what you will need:

  1. A tripod or level, stable surface on which to place your camera.
  2. A remote trigger or self-timer to release the shutter and avoid camera shake.  Dig out that manual if you are not sure how to set your self-timer! Most have a 2-second delay mode that works really well for this project.
  3. A bit of knowledge on using Manual mode on your camera, but I am going to tell you how which settings are ideal, so all you need to know is how to change your settings.
  4. A lovely tree or string of lights to practice on and capture!

To begin, set your camera up on a tripod or level surface and frame your subject as desired.  Make sure it is level and secure, so that you minimize the risk of disturbing it once you have set the shutter to release.

Making sure your camera is in Manual mode, adjust the settings to the following:

Aperture: f22 or higher – bear in mind that at this small of an aperture, everything will be in focus, so be sure that you don’t have distracting objects in the foreground or background.  You can even go as wide open as f5.6 and still get some twinkling action, so feel free to try different apertures to see which you like the best!  Just make sure you adjust the shutter speed to match the wider aperture, or you will have an image that is overexposed.

Shutter Speed:  25-30 seconds – this is a very long exposure, which is why we need to make sure the camera is level, supported and kept still through the entire process.  Even bumping it gently will cause a bit of blurring or make it slightly out if focus.  Sometimes it seems like your camera is taking FOREVER and it is tempting to check to see what is going on, but make sure that the shutter has clicked close before moving it!

ISO: 100 – even if you are shooting in low-light situations (like a dark room at night with just the tree or string of lights illuminated), keep your ISO as low as possible so that you get crystal-clear, noise-free images.

White Balance:  Tungsten or Iridescent – most white lights emit the same light colour as a basic light bulb, so this setting should work fine.  However, with the newer LED ceiling lights type bulbs, you may need to try a couple of different WB settings to find the one that looks the most natural.  Flash or even Cloudy may be good options in this case, as LEDs tend to emit a slightly cooler light.  For colored lights, again just play with the WB settings until you find one that suits.  Auto White Balance is also an option if you want to remove the guess work! :)

Once your camera is set, use the remote trigger or self-timer to release the shutter and wait for the shutter to click closed again before moving or adjusting the camera.

In the first image, I used the following settings:

Aperture: f 5.6, Shutter speed: 2.5 seconds. You can see that while the lights have a bit of “burst”, but it is subtle.

Great Tutorial on Capturing Starburst Effect of Christmas Lights via iHeartFaces.com

In the second image, my settings are:

Aperture: f 22, Shutter speed: 25 seconds. Here the starbursts are really in full effect, with large beams or light emanating from each bulb.

Great Tutorial on Capturing Starburst Effect of Christmas Lights via iHeartFaces.com

Now, go and grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the long exposure as you capture some twinkling starburst lights that add a hint of magic to your holiday images!

Mandy Blake for I Heart FacesMandy Blake, owner of Mandy Blake Photography and Flow for Photographers, is a natural light family and children’s photographer, as well as a Photoshop Action designer, Photoshop mentor and Photo Editor. She is the mother of two sassy, stubborn girls, wife to an amazingly supportive husband, and slobber-covered-ball thrower for her faithful Lab-Hound mix. You can also find her on Facebook.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

forex May 25, 2015

Goօd answers in return of thios issue ѡith genuine arguments and telling all on the topic of that.

Reply

https://commentfairepoussersescheveux.wordpress.com May 25, 2015

The formation of the cells was one thing, but were they actually functionally viable.
On the other hand, of course, a certain amount of
practice is necessary to create a flawless and skillfully done hair extension. Nothing you put
on your hair will ‘make’ it grow faster; it will continue to grow at the average rate of.

Reply

tutorial membuat program May 24, 2015

It’s hard to come by educated people on this topic, but
you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
Thanks

Reply

ชุดคลุมท้องราคาถูก May 23, 2015

If you can afford a little expensive one then designer maternity
wedding outfits are highly recommended. Here you are going to find a short overview on how to make your bridesmaids seem stunning and stunning.
Every conceived woman will require waistbands that are expandable.
We provide complete one-stop shopping for your special
day.

Reply

Thomas Andrews May 23, 2015

You can buy it as cheap as 150-200 (with trading talent 3) in Rivacheg and surrounding villages and sell it in Suno or Jelkala for as considerably as 750.

Reply

Aplication to your Telephone May 22, 2015

Hi there colleagues, how is all, and what you wish for to say about this piece of writing, in my view its actually awesome in support of me.

Reply

Dr. Sherri Worth in Orange County May 21, 2015

Good web site you have here.. It’s hard to find
good quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate people like you!
Take care!!

Reply

free inpatient alcohol rehab May 21, 2015

It’s very simple to find out any topic on net as compared to books, as I found this
paragraph at this web page.

Reply

charming woman May 21, 2015

After all, TRUST, is one of the foundations
of a good relationship. When he keeps thinking of activities that two of you might
share and enjoy doing together, then he likes you. They are just that, girls
that men look at and be with when they are on the rebound, and after that,
they go almost most of the time.

Reply

locked car door May 20, 2015

This lets you know you hsve the best of the best repairing your automobile.
Be involved and ask them about particular parts, exactly where they go, and why they nneed to
be repaired or replaced. Finding a good auto repair shop
can bbe very stressful.

Reply

sex in France May 20, 2015

It’s hard to come by experienced people for this subject, but you seem
like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks
%url

Reply

pulau tidung May 20, 2015

If some one desires to be updated with newest technologies then he must
be visit this web site and be up to date all the time.

Reply

best nba dunker May 20, 2015

pro teams ever played in Europe, the Orlando Magic, with 14 fourth-quarter points from Dennis Scott, vanquished
the Atlanta Hawks 120-95 before a full crowd of 9,483 at Wembley Arena in the opening of the two-game NBA London Games series.
At that time, Michael Jordan was a rising star in his own right.
Almost immediately after returning to the NBA,
Jordan picked up where he left off with NBA superstardom.

Reply

heroes of the storm guide valla heroes of the storm guide nova heroes of the storm guide illidan heroes of the storm guide for lol players heroes of the storm guide muradin heroes of the storm guide youtube heroes of the storm guide uther heroes of the st May 20, 2015

What’s up it’s me, I am also visiting this web page regularly, this
site is genuinely good and the users are actually sharing
nice thoughts.

Reply

bolu kukus strawberry May 20, 2015

Hello, Neat post. There’s a problem with your site iin web
explorer, might check this? IE nonetheless is tthe market chief and a huge part of people will omit your great writing duue to this problem.

Reply

Linda Sabeh May 19, 2015

Although using a real estate agent is helpful, it is important
to remember that there is a cost that accompanies
this service. Jeff Adams is an Expert author for He has written articles many like For more information visit our site.
You miss a lot of traffic if you are on the wrong side of the pricing number.

Reply

Taping Murah May 19, 2015

Excellent website. Penty of helpful information here.
I’m sending it to some buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious.
And of course, thanks for your effort!

Reply

castle clash hack no download May 19, 2015

There are some particular ones named Heroes, as a result of
they are used for them just like the Honor Badges and
Hearth.

Reply

แมสเซ็นเจอร์ May 19, 2015

If they didn’t follow these guidelines, the loan would not get approved.
This is an important factor in any business practice.
It fact, it serves the entire Southern California area.
This level of service is most definitely a rarity in this industry.

Reply

Mobile Ideas@ CellPhoneShop May 19, 2015

This is actually wonderful!! Your website is great,
however I just need to say that, if the website must have been a person; I would compliment people by expressing Your smile would make me smile.
Thanks a lot and also continue the decent creativity!!

Reply

brochure printing dubai May 19, 2015

hi!,I like your writing so so much! percentage we be in contact more approximately your post
on AOL? I need an expert on this area to unravel my problem.
Maybe that is you! Having a look forward to look you.

Reply

Cherry December 24, 2014

Thank you!!! I’ve read this today and went on in front of our tree and wow, I’m happy with the result. It worked for me. Thank you for your tip :)

Reply

sona December 19, 2014

didnt work

Reply

sona December 19, 2014

I just tried this and I dont see any difference. Trying to judge how far from tree you were, I was about 12 feet away.

Reply

kelly May 12, 2014

I have a question for you.Say you have a backdrop with white christmas light behind a sheer sheet and will have people standing in front. What would you set your camera too.It will be indoors in a basement at night.We are having a formal masquerade party. We what to have the lights but don’t want then lights too look funny. I know the lights in the basement of this house are not too bright.Please help,it’s for a sweet 16 party!

Reply

rae January 22, 2014

Thank you for sharing. I am going to practice with the light that are still outside.

Reply

Rikki Hatfield December 23, 2013

Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Meari December 20, 2013

I have a starburst filter for my cameras. It’s much easier and faster than using the bulb setting.

Reply

Katerina January 4, 2013

My lights on the tree are of different colors and after shooting, when I check it on the camera display, the background is pink and blue. Also I played with the WB- no result. I use the kit lens. Can it be the reason? Or maybe I am not just in the mood)))) But the tutorial is great!

Reply

Mandy Blake January 4, 2013

Hi Jen K!

Have you tried bumping up your ISO a tiny bit? Even to 400, which should keep the noise to a minimum but make your sensor a bit more sensitive to the light, especially if you are shooting in the near-dark.

It is odd that is is all black – if your exposure is 20-30 seconds long, you should be able to pick up any ambient light, including the tree… It almost sounds like your shutter is not opening. Are you using a remote trigger?

Mandy

Reply

Mandy Blake January 4, 2013

Hi Katerina!
Do you mean that the background is not dark? Are your lights pink and blue or is it something that is happening in post-processing?

If you give me more details I will try to help you find a solution! :)

Mandy

Reply

Katerina January 4, 2013

I’ve tried it too, my pictyres are not black, they are blue and pink(((

Reply

Jen k December 13, 2012

I have been trying this but everything is black. I shoot in manual 100% of the time so I’ve double checked my settings. Any idea what else might be going on?? I even moved right up to a foot away from the tree!

Reply

Declan Mc Glone December 13, 2012

Capturing a Starburst Effect with Christmas Lights #photography http://t.co/tXrjcoiX

Reply

Tracy P. December 13, 2012

This is awesome! I took a workshop on photographing the night skyline downtown, and this is just the same–but it had never occurred to me to apply it to an indoor, intimate setting. Thank you!

Reply

Amanda D December 12, 2012

Just tried it! I love the effect! Thank you!

Reply

One2OneNetwork December 12, 2012

Capturing a Starburst Effect with Christmas Lights | I Heart Faces http://t.co/KjQkphuN — How fun!

Reply

Angie Arthur December 12, 2012

Tips for photographing your Christmas tree! –>RT @iheartfaces: Capturing a Starburst Effect with Christmas Lights http://t.co/Bcl6lfr8

Reply

Jane December 12, 2012

Thank you, Mandy, and I Heart Faces for sharing this! Definitely will be following your tutorial to get better photos this year!

Reply

Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman December 12, 2012

Love this Mandy! Will certainly by trying it out!

Reply

Paige Ewing December 12, 2012

Love this tutorial!! Can’t wait to try it:) Thanks!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: