Twinkle, twinkle little Christmas lights

The beginning of December is the start of the holiday season and already many people have put up their Christmas lights. Some displays are pretty spectacular and you may want to take some photos of them. Here are a few tips to get the best pictures you can.

(12/13/17) Lights, inflatables and other decorations, Rogelio Gallegos and Maria Dello’s dazzling Christmas display has something for everyone at their home at 3 S. Oro Street in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Avoid using a flash. Either you will be to far away for the flash to be effective or the flash will wash out the colors and give and artificial look to your photos.

(12/12/17) Wooden soldiers stand guard over Jim Galindo’s Christmas display at his home at 122 E. Gibson Street in Stockton. Galindo has toiled after work since August to put up the thousands of holiday lights which he has done for the past several years. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

There are two ways to avoid in blurry pictures due to the shaking of the camera. The first is to shoot at a higher shutter speed. For most people that means about 1/250th of a second or faster. There are some who are practiced at holding the camera still at slower shutter speeds but 1/250th is a general rule for most. Because of the low lighting situation that most Christmas lights at night involve, that means increasing the camera’s ISO, or light sensitivity. But there’s a trade off. Raising the ISO also means increasing the noise, or little colored specks, that you image might get in low light. So to use a lower ISO to avoid the noise, you’ll need to use a tripod. A good, study tripod can hold the camera still and avoid camera shake.

(12/13/01) A zoom-effect during a time exposure adds movement to the patriotically-themed house at 18987 Lambert Way in Lockeford. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Don’t use an automatic exposure on your camera. Either the camera will read the scene as too dark and will grossly overexpose your shot or it will be fooled by a scene that has a lot of lights as too bright and underexpose you photo. You want an image that is slightly overexposed so the lights have a nice glow to them. Set the exposure manually (I know, it’s a scary step for many people) and then check your camera’s monitor. Keep adjusting the settings until the exposure is right.

(11/17/20) A tree and about 80 rose bushes are adorned with about 10,000 white lights in Morris Chapel’s annual Christmas display on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton. CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD

For many the so-called “blue hour” of dusk is the best time to photograph Christmas lights. This is after the sun goes down and the sky turns a deep azure. It will add more color to your scene and add definition to roof lines and trees that don’t have lights on them.

(12/12/17) 3-year-old Hunter Mitchell, left, 6-year-old Alivia Mitchell and 4-year-old Natasha Mitchell take in the wonder that is the Christmas light display at their grandfather Jim Galindo’s home at 122 E. Gibson Street in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Most of these tips are for DSLR users but they also will work if you use your phone. Most current phones have small adjustments for exposure and there are tripods made for them as well (they also have the added benefit of being small and lightweight).

(12/16/16) Christmas lights are reflected in the window of Paulette Daniel’s car as she looks at the impressive holiday display at the home of Jim Galindo at 122. E. Gibson Street in Stockton. Galindo puts up a display of about 400,000 lights starting in mid-August. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

Lastly, as with all night shooting, go with a friend our family member. There is safety in numbers, especially in the dark of night, and it’s always nice to have someone to talk to when you’re out shooting. Also, it can get chilly this time of year so make sure you dress warmly. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

(12/23/16) Stockton firefighter Kyle Suchland adjust the lights on a vintage 1958 ladder truck all decked out in Christmas lights with a speaker system playing Christmas songs at Station 2 in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE STOCKTON RECORD]

This entry was posted in Light, lighting, Night and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form.
  • Categories

  • Archives