Christmas Photography

The Secrets to Shooting Great Holiday Lights Photos

Using the right equipment is important if you want to capture the true beauty and radiance of holiday lights – whether it be indoors or outdoors. While even the simplest point and shoot digital camera can be used for this purpose, you need to have adequate camera support and decide whether or not to use your flash to achieve the effect you desire.

Oh, the wonder those holiday lights bring! When it comes to being the most festive and exciting time to shoot photos, nothing beats Christmas time. So, how exactly do you shoot great photos despite all the challenges the holiday season brings? And just how do you capture the magical brilliance of all those Christmas lights? Let us find out how.

There are two basic considerations in shooting perfect Christmas light photos – making sure you have the right equipment and using the most appropriate camera settings.

Choosing the Right Equipment for the Job

Using the right equipment is important if you want to capture the true beauty and radiance of holiday lights – whether it be indoors or outdoors. While even the simplest point and shoot digital camera can be used for this purpose, you need to have adequate camera support and decide whether or not to use your flash to achieve the effect you desire.

  • Camera support. It doesn’t matter if you use a tripod or any level surface to support your camera while taking pictures of all those breath-taking holiday lights. What’s important is that you minimize camera shake that can, in turn, result in blurred images and poor quality photos. One good idea is to use a bean bag or a bean bag-like gadget for this purpose.
  • To flash or not to flash. Do you need to use your flash or not? Well, it really depends on the situation and the effect you want to achieve. If you want to capture the beauty of the lights, don’t use your flash. If you want crisp and clean photos minus the warmth and cozy ambience that best illustrates Christmas time, use a flash. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though.

Use the Most Appropriate Settings

  • Aperture. To get that elusive “star effect” when shooting Christmas lights outdoors, set your aperture between f/4 and f/6.7. Still others recommend an aperture setting between f/2 and f/5.6.
  • ISO Setting. Use the lowest ISO possible to minimize digital noise. Some professional photographers recommend an ISO speed of 200 while others swear they get the best results when their ISO speed is set anywhere between 400 and 1600.
  • Shutter Speed. Go for slower shutter speed (exposure time). As a general rule of thumb, you should keep the lens open long enough to capture the effects cast by the lights. However, different experts recommend different shutter speeds. Some recommend keeping shutter speeds between 1/30 to 1/90 while others recommend using shutter speeds from 1/10 to 1 to 2 seconds.
  • White Balance. Turn off your automatic white balance settings and set it to tungsten to get better quality photos.
  • RAW Format. Always shoot using the RAW format for ease and flexibility in editing photos.

Other Tips for Picture Perfect Shots

  • Know the best time to take your shots. One common mistake most people make is shooting Christmas lights when it’s already pitch dark outside. For best results, aim to shoot shortly after sunset. You will capture the glow of the holiday lights and have a beautiful, richer background color in the sky.
  • Shoot from different angles. Doing so will significantly increase your chances of catching some great photos on camera.
  • Turn on some lights. When shooting holiday lights indoors, make sure to turn on some lights to provide ample ambient light. Again, please don’t use your flash.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. With digital photography, you need to constantly test what works best for you and your subject.

The holiday season only lasts for a matter of days. Don’t waste any more time. Grab your camera and start shooting great holiday pictures right now!

Have fun with these tips and enjoy the goodwill at this time,

Ray Baker