The holidays are just around the corner and for most of us, that means lots of pictures! Often, our holiday pictures include beautiful lights. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, strands of Christmas lights can make a fun backdrop for a picture. Here are a few tips for using lights in your photographs this holiday season.
USING LIGHTS AS A BACKDROP
Christmas lights are a really fun way to add some interest to your backdrop. Place them over or under a sheer fabric and use the tips I’ve already shared for making your background blurry. This will create a sparkly look.
Lights under the fabric:
Lights on top of the fabric:
You can see that in the second set of photos, I got in closer to make the background blurrier. This is because you don’t want the cords from the lights to be noticeable when the lights are on top of your backdrop.
You don’t need an elaborate backdrop or setup in order to use lights as a background for your photos, though. Simply use your Christmas tree!
In order to get those big, round circles from your lights, remember the blurry background tips!
PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE
For most of us, the focal point of our holiday decorations is the tree, so here are a few tips for getting great photos of your Christmas tree.
Turn off your flash! Your flash drowns out the pretty lights and makes crazy shadows everywhere. In these two examples, I used auto mode for both and simply turned off the flash in the second one. See what a difference it makes?
Use a high ISO. Increasing your ISO will make your camera more sensitive to light, allowing you to get a better exposure in such a dark setting. Even most point and shoot cameras allow you to change the ISO setting.
Use a very small aperture. The smaller your aperture (the larger the number), the more “twinkly” the lights will look. Remember, if you are not comfortable in manual mode, you can use aperture priority. You can see in these photos (cropped close for comparison), how the star burst effect gets larger as the aperture gets smaller.
Remember, if your aperture is really small, you are letting in much less light and you will need to boost your ISO up very high. You will also need to have a slow shutter speed in order to get a correct exposure, which brings us to…..
Use a slow shutter speed (and a tripod!). In order to let in all that beautiful, twinkly light, you will need to use a slower shutter speed. The following pictures show you how shutter speed effects your photo.
Remember, when your shutter speed is very slow, movement (either from the person holding the camera, or the subjects in the photo) can ruin the picture. You will probably want to use a tripod to eliminate camera shake. If you are including a person in your photo, you will need to ask them to hold very still. If you are including a little person who doesn’t know the meaning of “hold very still”, you will need to sacrifice some of the “twinkly-ness” of the lights (by using a larger aperture to let in more light) in order to have a higher shutter speed.
Here are a couple more examples, along with their settings:
There you go… now you’re all set to go out and take some fabulous holiday photos! Don’t forget to use them in a layout and post them in the gallery so that we can see them too!