Christmas is around the corner! Soon you will be unpacking your Christmas tree and Christmas lights and hopefully you’re capturing it all on camera. Holiday lights brighten the mood no matter where they are. They might be in a downtown area, at a mall, or even at your own home. For those who love taking pictures, those lights can represent an opportunity to capture some beautiful, out of the ordinary images.
Dim light, flickering lights and various backgrounds can all make photographing Christmas lights a little tricky.
Here are a few easy tips and tricks to photograph Christmas lights this year:
1. Photograph outdoor Christmas lights while it’s still daylight but not too sunny.
It’s much harder to get good photos when the lights are in the darkness. At least for outdoor Christmas lights, use late-afternoon light to provide some depth behind already switched-on lights.
2. TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!
A flash takes away from the ambiance. When I think of Christmas lights I imagine the glowing lights in a cozy room or the exterior of a home outlined in Christmas lights. When a flash fires, everything in the room becomes illuminated rather than just the glowing lights.
Use a tripod or lean on something solid such as a wall or fence to stabilize the camera. This will give you the best photo result.
Have the ISO at 800 or over (this is because you can’t use flash). If you’re still having a tough time with lighting, turn up your ISO! It will add grain to your image; the higher the number the more grain. This will allow you to capture a sharper image in lower light.
After you’ve captured general photos of your tree, you might want to try bokeh ( where lights are blurred in the background ). First, put your camera in aperture priority or manual capture mode. To achieve bokeh your aperture needs to be wide open – the lowest number your aperture can go. If you stand far away and focus on your whole tree, it’s still going to look focused for the most part.
Now, try this: standing away from your tree, put your lens into manual to have control of the focus.
Twist the focus on your camera both directions and look at the lights starting to create bokeh! See how it works!? It’s incredible.
Focus on an object in the foreground and capture the Christmas lights out of focus in the background. This looks really neat when you get it done just right. Because your lens is close to the object, it puts the object in focus and the lights become blurred and because of your open aperture, it creates a shallow depth of field which creates the beautiful effect!
Play around with it. Get creative! Enjoy this magical time with your family.
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