Whether you want a twinkling backdrop for the photo for your holiday cards, or you want to have perfect pictures of Christmas morning – you will need to learn some of the ins and outs of how to take pictures of Christmas lights.
- Equipment – You will need the proper equipment in order to get the best shot. The type of lens you use will depend on whether you want a close up of some lights or a wide angle of your entire house in all its lighted glory.
- Settings – It’s important that your lens can capture fast apertures (somewhere in the f/4.5 area), because that will give you the “star” twinkling effect that you’re looking for. You will also want a camera that has a flash and a manual mode. The white balance is important in order to get the colors right on the lights, so you want to set that to “Tungsten”.
- Meter the lights first – You don’t want over-exposed pictures, and even though these lights are dimmer than some, they are sill light sources that will lose their colors if over-exposed.
- Timing – If you’re going to be taking your pictures outdoors (like a picture of your house), then you will want to wait until just after sunset. This time works best because the sky still has some light in it to help your picture, but not enough that your Christmas lights will be outshone. For indoor pictures (like for holiday cards), make sure there is some natural light, but not so bright that your picture looks washed out.
- Flash – Use the flash to even out the lighting in the rest of the picture (which will be slightly dark because of your exposure time and aperture). Try using a manual flash so that you can tweak things more, since you will probably have to experiment a little bit.
If this is your first time taking pictures of Christmas lights, remember that practice makes perfect! Make sure you don’t stay outside so long that you, your family, or your camera start to see adverse affects from the cold, but take the time to get the right shot.