How To Take Photos of Christmas Lights

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PictureCorrect posted a great article on How To Photograph Christmas Lights (the video above is a short tutorial on the same subject from Howcast).  Great tips for those who want to capture the beauty and magic of the Christmas Season!

Here’s some bullet points from PictureCorrect’s article:

  • The best time to photograph outdoor holiday lights is after the sun goes down but before it is totally dark.
  • During that time period, there is still a touch of ambient light in the atmosphere. Yet it is dark enough so that the lights will not look dull or become overpowered by daylight.
  • You can still get some good shots later in the evening, but will depend on your subject.
  • If you want to take pictures of a brightly lit Christmas tree late in the evening, and that is your main focus, then your pictures should come out fine.
  • If the tree also happens to be in an area that is somewhat lit, the details of the surrounding area should be visible in your image.
  • Taking pictures of very bright lights that may be in trees, or hung between buildings late in the evening should not be a problem. Especially if there are interesting patterns that look good by themselves. In fact a very dark sky might enhance the lighting itself.
  • The next item of concern when photographing holiday lights is the camera’s shutter speed. Since it will be practically dark when you are taking the pictures, a slower shutter speed, often ¼ second to 2 seconds or more will be required.
  • The best solution to avoiding blur in your images due to camera shake is to use a tripod.
  • If there is no tripod available, try placing the camera on a steady surface when taking the pictures of Holiday lights.
  • It is also a good idea use the camera’s self-timer feature to avoid camera shake that could occur just from pressing the camera’s shutter release.
  • Another solution would be to increase your camera’s ISO setting, making the camera’s image sensor more sensitive to light and allowing you to choose a faster camera shutter speed.
  • Although increasing the ISO setting allows you to use higher shutter speeds, it is preferable to use lower ISO settings around ISO 100 or 200 for better picture quality – But if using a very high ISO setting is the only way to get the shot, then go for it.
  • Turn your flash off when taking pictures of outdoor lights.
  • When taking pictures of holiday lights indoors, try turning the house lights down so that the holiday lights can stand out more and the effect will be more dramatic.
  • As far as exposure settings for taking pictures of holiday lights, there is not a one size fits all solution since light intensities can vary from one scene to another. It is best to take a test shot first and make adjustments after you see the results.
  • If you are using a basic compact camera outdoors, try using one of the camera’s scene modes such as Night Landscape. (Editor’s Note:  The Star Filter on a Panasonic Camera looks really cool with Christmas Lights too!)
  • If you are using a digital SLR or some other type of camera in which you can control the exposure settings, take a test shot in one of the semi-automatic modes or in the manual mode. Check the image in your viewfinder and then tweak your aperture and/or shutter speed settings to find an exposure you are satisfied with.

(Read full article on PictureCorrect)


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