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Pointers by Paul's Photo

The Magic of Christmas lights

                                   The Magic of Christmas Lights

                                                                                                    Making amazing pictures of your spectacular lights

Christmas and the Holiday season is a time for family, friends and goodwill. The lights on our Christmas tree and in the decorations in the neighborhood share these well-wishes with the world around us. At Creative Photo Academy and over the counter at PAUL’S PHOTO we often get questions about making the best pictures of these joyous displays! Most beginning photographers fret about shooting at night. NO WORRIES, it’s just like daytime except dimmer!

First, you have to make a choice: hand-held photography or tripod shooting.

Hand-held pictures with a film camera, mirrorless or digital SLR camera is easy.  

Switch from AUTO mode to Aperture priority (A or Av mode) or Manual.

Set a high ISO setting (ISO 3200 or 6400) and use your lens at the brightest lens opening (2.8, 4.0 or 5.6). Be sure your flash is disabled (OFF) and your stabilizer is ON (IS or VR).

For better color, more creativity and all-around better photos using a tripod is recommended. Choose 200 or 400 ISO, use a sturdy tripod and wired remote release. Your camera is now free to make exposures from 1 second to 30 seconds. Set your camera to Aperture priority or Manual. Choose wide aperture for narrow focus, F 8 for moderate focus or f 16 for deep focus. F8 is most popular as you will see the majority of the scene in focus! The longer shutter stays open the more creative blur you will see on moving items, plus it will equalize the “twinkling” lights. Remember to turn your stabilizer OFF.

Check your photo for light for color and effect. White Balance is an important control in digital cameras. AUTO WB will yield OK results. Consider setting daylight, tungsten or fluorescent white balance for creative effects. Experimentation with white balance is fun and effective on all digital cameras.  If you are up to it, here’s a great place to experiment with RAW!  Now you can adjust white balance on your computer

(with Photoshop Elements or Lightroom)

FOCUS at night is always an issue. If Auto Focus works, GREAT!! If AF has issues select a focus point on your camera and move the point to a subject in the photo that has contrast.

Photographing your Christmas tree and neighborhood light display is a simple way to share the Joy of the Holidays with family and friends…as well as sharing our skill and love of photography.

                                           Here’s a check list to make it simpler!

1.) Use a tripod. Our exposures will be upwards of 1 second! Make sure the tripod is level and steady

2.) Turn off the flash, use the ambient light only

3.) Matrix light meter works best!

4.) Aperture priority works best if you are comfortable!

5.) ISO 200 or 400 film or setting on digital cameras for held-held shooting

6.) Test Auto and Tungsten white balance on digital cameras… see what looks best!

7.) Fill the frame with your subject. Avoid lots of “dark areas” with no lights in the picture

8.) Take the picture and enjoy!