Photographing Holiday Lights #95
Photographing Holiday Lights #95
Last week I talked about photographing people during the holidays. But if photographing people isn’t your cup of tea, well there’s lots of other things to photograph especially this time of year. If you are indoors you probably need a tripod and if you are outdoors you probably need a tripod too. Let’s start with indoors. In order to show the lights, you’ll need the environment to be a little bit dim and therefore you’re under low light. First you’ll want to shoot in Aperture priority and you’ll want to turn off auto ISO. Since nothing is moving you don’t need to worry about speed. You’ll want to close down your aperture to at least f/8 or f/11. You could do f/16 or f/22 but that may be pushing it. The reason that you want such a small aperture is because it will make the little lights burst into little stars. But the fact that you are shooting higher than f/8 to make this happen means that you will either need to slow down your shutter speed or up your ISO. For me shooting slower shutter speeds on a tripod rather than high ISO’s with lower resolution is much more preferable. But if you hate carrying a tripod well then you’d have to go with the ISO option.
Another thing you might want to consider is something called a black mist filter. These have become really popular of late because a lot of movie makers seem to be using them. They give your images that kind of foggy misty look. With bursting lights like what I was just describing you’ll still get distinct bursts but they’ll have a little glow to them. It can make for some nice moody shots. Here’s the link:
A great way to be shooting those light especially if you are out doors is to shoot during the magic hour. That’s the short window immediately after the sun sets. The sky will be nice and blue and just getting dark. So you will have that night feeling but the lights will also glow. This is even more wonderful if you have snow because the lights will bounce off of the snow, making your scene even more colorful. At this point I’m mostly talking about wide overall shots but you’ll want to push the limits of your composition as well. Get in really close to things like holiday trees and shoot upwards to make them look bigger. Get in close to candles with a macro lens and let the background fade away. But as with any source of fire be careful with your camera equipment and your distance! One day you can ask me how I know. You might want to try getting close to colorful tree lights as well. Play with reflections on ornaments. And make sure to try using your flash with a long exposure. By long exposure I mean anywhere between a half second and 2 seconds and you’ll do this hand held. So set your camera to Manual mode, set an aperture at about f/8 and as you click the button you’ll want to twist your camera in a circle or simply drag it up and down. Try all different directions to see the different effects. I know it might be hard to imagine what’s going on here but give it a try and see what happens. It’s digital, it’s not going to cost you anything. Oh and you’ll want to be pointing at a mix of holiday lights as well. Just so we’re clear, I’m guessing on the exposure here so you’ll need to adjust the power on your flash or your f/stop until you get what you want.
Whether you are shooting indoors or outdoors I would suggest you try different white balances to see how this effects your image. The effects can be rather dramatic and if you’re shooting Nikon, go to your menus and get into your fluorescent setting and try different fluorescent modes as well. I hope I was able to give you a few ideas to get you out there and do some fun stuff.