5 More Tips for Taking Pictures of Christmas Lights

Are you frustrated because the pictures you take of Christmas lights turn out overexposed or underexposed? In this tutorial, Jay P. Morgan shares some useful tips to ensure your festive photos come out looking great:

1. Time of day is critical

When shooting Christmas lights, the time of the day when you make your exposures is critical. The best pictures of Christmas lights turn out when the ambient light is of the same intensity as the Christmas lights themselves. Set your exposure for the Christmas lights and then wait for everything else to match that same settings. The window is hardly 10-20 minutes.

exposure balancing

Watch for that 10-20 minute window when the ambient exposure matches that of the Christmas lights.

2. Don’t forget the sky

You don’t want to photograph Christmas lights when the sky is pitch black. It’s so boring, even though the lights are on. It is always best when you have a bit of the sky and there is some ambient light around. Just enough to illuminate the house. The perfect time to shoot is late dusk.

how to balance ambient light with LED lights

The image on he left balances the exposure of the sky with the lights

3. Bring a tripod

Use a tripod! You will be shooting long exposure with insanely slow shutter speeds. A steady camera will prevent blur.

4. Don’t use the built-in flash

If there were ever a reason not to use the built-in flash here is it. The built-in flash is a blindingly intense burst of light—enough to destroy your images. It’s too overpowering for the humble Christmas lights to stand a chance.

camera settings for shooting christmas lights

Adjust your settings to expose for the Christmas lights.

5. Check your camera settings

This is important stuff. You don’t want to be shooting in anything but RAW. So, set your camera to raw first.

When you shoot RAW, anything will work for white balance, since you can always go back and change it in Photoshop, but Morgan suggests tungsten or daylight.

Next is ISO. Morgan suggests using an ISO of 620 to begin with. You can set yours even higher. This depends on the kind of results that you are getting.

Start with your aperture at f/5.6 and your shutter speed at 1/8 of a second, and adjust from there.

Hope you found the above tips useful. Go ahead and use them to capture better pictures of Christmas lights this year.

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