5 TIPS TO SHOOT HOLIDAY LIGHT PHOTOS!
1. BALANCING TWO TYPES OF AMBIENT LIGHT
When we go out to see holiday lights, it is usually already very dark. This isn't a problem for our eyes but the camera sensor has limitations in these situations. The best time to go out and shoot holiday lights is dusk - that small window of time after the sun has set and before total darkness has set in. The 2 types of ambience that we are trying to balance are the holiday lights and the slowly disappearing evening light. During this time, it is possible to expose for both, and, if you set your camera’s white balance to Tungsten, you will make the already blue sky even bluer. Keeping this in mind, it will take some scouting to find a good composition. Once you have found your place and subject to shoot, you can maximize your time getting the shot right. This could be a fun way to get out of the house and stroll around the neighborhood during the Christmas season. Here is a link to some of San Diego’s hotspots for Christmas lights.
3. LONG EXPOSURE (MOVEMENT, LIGHT TRAILS)
To keep this very basic and simple, follow these steps. Your camera should allow you to control at least the shutter speed. Then find moving lights or an object that is moving while illuminated. Try to visualize how it all plays out in the final image. A street scene with holiday decorations during dusk and some moving lights (like cars) could produce an interesting scene. Think about how the trails will interact with the rest of your composition. I just recently saw a great shot of a spinning Christmas tree. It caught my attention because I really liked the look, and I also knew that it took some effort to spin the tree with all the lights attached to it :-)
To shoot a long exposure set your camera on a tripod or a steady surface, use an aperture of at least f/8 keep the ISO low and then determine the shutter speed the longer the better! Try to have at least 10-20 sec. but keep experimenting with different intervals. Shorter exposures will produce shorter trails. Longer exposures will give you smooth continuous trails. Use your histogram to check that the highlights are not totally blown out. Shoot RAW if you can, this will give you more options in post processing, you can also use your camera’s BULB mode and a remote control to utilize shutter speeds that go past 30sec. but in an urban setting you can get by without that extra exposure time.
4. CLOSE UP OF HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
5. ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM YOUR LENS !
This can be really fun and create some interesting and unique photographs! Find lights in an interesting setting - a street scene, a lit up Christmas tree, or any sort of light involving Christmas decoration. Then set your camera on a tripod and use a zoom lens. Now get your exposure figured out and, during the exposure, you will zoom in and out. This will create streaks of light that can be super fun and produce unique photographs. This is very experimental, so keep on trying with different subjects and surroundings!
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