Taking Pictures of Holiday Christmas Lights

Well it’s that time of year again. Xmas is upon us. The gifts need to be bought. Fight the holiday rushes at the shopping malls (masochists!) and take family photos to send to the loved ones that can’t be with you during this holiday season.

Taking photos of Christmas lights? On a tree? This isn’t as difficult as it seems. Especially if you have strobes and/or light boxes, but if you have that stuff, you should already know what you are doing.

Some of you have used your point and shoot and get the perfect lit Xmas tree, but the tree itself is too dark. Or you may end up blowing out or over-exposing the lights.

What happens is that your camera’s meter sees the dark green tree and these little light bulbs and it is trying to determine what the best exposure is suppose to be.

Again, unless you already have the strobes and light boxes, there’s another way of getting it done.

Use your on camera flash as a fill light:

Put your camera on a tripod and compose the picture.

Using the M setting (Manual, yes, I’m talking about SLRs here folks), take some test shots. Adjust the shutter speed and/or f-stop until the Xmas lights look great.

It is very likely that the rest of the tree will be very dark.

Pop up your on camera flash to open up those dark areas.

If the picture looks too “bright”, go into the settings or you’ll have a flash exposure compensation button on your camera and reduce the flash output starting at -1; if it’s still not to your liking, try the next step at -1.3, then -1.6, and then one at -2.

Take many shots, and various levels.

You’ll most likely have to see on that computer screen what is best. It’s better to see on a 17+” screen, than a 2″ screen. Unless you’re shooting tethered, which I don’t recommend in an out door setting in winter.

Try also using a Star filter, this will give it the starry look on each of the lights and make your picture seem that much more outstanding.

Happy Holidays!


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