Christmas Photography: How to Photograph Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are beautiful to behold and even prettier to photograph. Capturing these lights in Christmas photography, however, can be a difficult task. To take great pictures of Christmas lights, users just need a standard digital camera and the right time of day.

Step 1: When to Photograph Christmas Lights

Perhaps, the trickiest part of photographing Christmas lights is finding the right time of day. While most people want to wait until after dark to start photographing them, this may not actually be the most operative time. When night comes, that means that there is very little ambient light, and this means that the flash will be necessary. But, if a user takes a picture of Christmas lights with a flash, more than likely the photo will be over-exposed, and the color of the lights will not show up at all.

If the picture is taken during the middle of the day, the photograph will again be overexposed, but this time it will be due to the sun. Photographs taken during of the middle of the day will cause the lights to be dull or just not as bright.

While a filter may help with the sun problem, there is actually an easier way to capture Christmas lights. Take pictures at dusk. Basically, start taking pictures right after the sun goes down or when the sun is almost down. Plenty of ambient light will still be available, but the area will be dark enough to capture the colors of the lights.

Step 2: Setting up the Shot

Photographers should scope out their spot before sunset. This way, they can figure out what would make the best shot. Just like standard photography, users want to frame out their shots and find interesting foreground or background objects.

If a photographer is taking pictures of his neighbors' lights, he may have to ask them to turn the lights on early. Most people with Christmas lights turn them on after the sun goes down, or they are on a timer. But, again, getting there early will allow the photographer to get everything ready, including ensuring that the lights are on.

Photographers should experiment with the shot, but generally, shots with plenty of sky or a solid background object will look best. Use a tripod or a camera with optical stabilization. Photographer will already be shooting in a low-light situation, which will increase the chances of the pictures being grainy or blurry.

Step 3: Set the Camera to the Low-Light Setting

Photographers will not be able to use their flash, so the ISO will have to be pushed up to at least over 800. It might be a good idea to practice taking some pictures days before to figure out which would be the best setting.

If users are knowledgeable about the white balance, they may also try experimenting with that as well. The Tungsten setting on most cameras will work very well for evening shots.

Sometimes, reflective surfaces like snow or white lights can make for interesting shots. Photographers just need to make sure that the surface is not too reflective, or it will dull the Christmas lights.