Richard Rosario Photography | Photographing Christmas Lights

Photographing Christmas Lights

December 08, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

It’s Christmas season and time for presents, and the hustle and bustle that goes with finding them, carolers and music piping through all the stores and the ever-beloved Christmas Portrait.  This is one of the best times of the year to get everyone together for that family portrait and its always great to try to show off your decorations and lights to all your friends and family.  The problem is, it’s been hard for you to get good pictures with the lights in the picture.  How do you do that properly?  Here are some of my best ideas that I will share with you to get that professional look to all your Christmas photographs.

I may go a bit more technical here that you expect, but this info is important if you really want to get the lights just right.

First I just want to make it clear that you can take pictures indoors or outdoors at Christmas and get that look you’re searching for. You don’t need to be saddled with a photograph in front of your fireplace.  Therefore, I’ll give you some clues on what is best for both indoor and outdoor photography with your Christmas lights.

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Of course, everyone’s favorite is in front of the Christmas tree.  The best pictures will be taken using a tripod.  Your hand, no matter how steady you think it may be, will quiver a little and blur the shot. The tripod will steady your shot and give you the clearest result. We should also ditch the flash and leave the room lights on.  If you turn off all your main lights and use a flash you will not only blind your family members momentarily but you will also wash out the lights on the trees so everything will be blurred.  Also, if you keep with the flash or keep all the lights off but those on the tree you could end up with parts of your photograph under and overexposed.  The best way to photograph with the Christmas tree is to have it about six feet away from the family. Now decide if you want to purposely blur the tree as in the photograph in this article or if you want the lights crisp and clear.  To blur you will want a large aperture, which would be the smallest F-stop numbers on your camera. Next you will want to be close to your subject (the family). If you don’t want to blur the tree as seen here, then you will need a different setting. For crystal clear lights on the tree and for the family I usually walk a little away from the family (subject) and choose a smaller aperture, which will be the larger F-stop numbers on the camera.The same formulas can be used for any background you choose indoors.

If you are insistent about using a flash because you’re hesitant about what I’ve told you about not using a flash you will actually need to go a little towards a professional photographer’s toolkit to make it happen.  The best way to use a flash for the Christmas light photography is to use an umbrella with an external flash.  There isn’t a way for a flash that is included with your camera to get clear and crisp shots. Take off the Auto ISO and input 100 or 200.  Use between f/2.0 and f/2.8 for your aperture setting and use a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second. These settings should work the best for you.  Either way, focus on your subject (family), then concentrate on the tree surrounding them.  It is possible to have everything in focus. ©Richard Rosario Photography_Blog IMG_0258e©Richard Rosario Photography_Blog IMG_0258e

For outdoor photography you want to try at dusk or dawn for the best natural lighting. In this case, you will want to have the exposure set for your Christmas lights and not the natural light surrounding you and your subjects. The white balance on the camera should be set for “incandescent” or “Tungsten” and still use a tripod and still stay away from the flash.  You will work with the aperture settings as I have previously mentioned.  I’d say start at maybe f/8 and slow your shutter speed if necessary. The longer the exposure the more awesome your photograph will be.

I never use automatic settings of any kind on a camera.  That’s my final and most important pointer that I can give you. Be Merry, Be Bright, Be with Family...


P.S.  I am back to blogging....


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