Christmas Time! How to Photograph Lights
This is a really great time of the year to get unique and magical pictures of your kids. One of the things that adds to the magic, is all the sparkly lights everywhere. From the lights on the trees, to the neighbor’s vibrantly decorated yard, there are excellent festive backdrops for holiday pictures everywhere. So why is it that when we try to photograph lights at night they disappear into the darkness?
What Usually Happens (what not to do!):
- We see a beautifully lit up scene and position our subject in front of this perfect Christmassy backdrop.
- We use our camera’s auto setting, the Auto Flash fires and the lights disappear into the background.
Here’s a shot I took at the weekend which demonstrates what happens when we use flash:
It’s a perfectly exposed shot but we don’t really get a feeling of the atmosphere of the picture. The background is beautifully lit by fairy lights but when the flash fires it throws the background into darkness.
How to Photograph Lights (do this instead)
So how do we accurately portray the scene as we see it?
- Simply set your camera to Night Scene Mode (the icon looks like a little man beside a moon and stars)
- Hold steady and shoot!
And here is the result:
What happens in Night Scene mode is the shutter stays open for longer than normal so the ambient lighting in the background is exposed. Then, the flash fires in order to expose your subject in the foreground.
The result is a well-exposed subject and a perfectly exposed background. So we get the overall festive feeling of the picture.
Some things to remember when using this mode:
- Only use when the background is lit up and the lights are to be part of the picture.
- Hold your camera extra steady – that slow shutter speed will result in camera shake if you don’t
- Only use for very still subjects. My model was being unusually poised for this picture!
- If you have no subject (person) in shot you could try turning flash off altogether and raising your ISO
So go and find some cool illuminated backgrounds and take some Holiday pictures using Night Scene Mode.
P.S. This is a great method to use to photograph your Christmas tree and your living room when taking your picture for Capture the Magic! Be sure to read my post on this great way to catch Santa in the Act!