Photography at Christmas Time!

Christmas is almost here and everywhere around neighborhoods in Raleigh, Christmas lights are being strung on houses and on trees in living rooms. If you plan on taking pictures during the holiday season, this is a great opportunity to capture the lights at night and take some festive pictures.

Outdoor Lights

If you are taking pictures outside at night, you will want to make sure the lights are bright and clear. Whether you are walking around downtown taking pictures of the lights strung outside shops and around parks or you are driving around in neighborhoods admiring the displays on the houses, the best time to do this is in the early evening. Try to time it correctly so that the sun has already set, but it is not completely dark yet. If it is late at night and completely dark, you will be able to capture the lights, but the rest of your scene won’t have any detail. If it it too early and still bright outside, your Christmas lights will be overpowered and look dull in the sunlight. Another thing to consider is shutter speed. Just like any time you are taking photos in low light situations, you want to make sure your shutter speed is set to a slower speed in order to completely capture your image and expose correctly. However, if you are shooting with a slow shutter speed, you will often get lots of camera shake when holding your camera by hand. Make sure you have a tripod with you when shooting with slower shutter speeds to reduce motion blur. Using the self timer or a remote to release the shutter will also help to keep your images from looking blurry. If you have a wide angle lens, this can be a great way to capture a fully decorated house or even a wide shot of a neighborhood lit up with Christmas decorations. Play around with different types of lenses to get different creative shots. Zoom in on portions of outdoor decorations or take a step back for a fuller picture.

Indoor Lights

When I travel home to Virginia for Christmas, I look forward to taking pictures inside with my family and all the decorations. Taking pictures indoors during the holidays gives you a fantastic opportunity to taking pictures with bokeh. Whether you are at a Christmas party or just taking family pictures around the Christmas tree, setting up your camera to capture bokeh is fairly simple. The trick to capturing bokeh is in your aperture. A good way to set up your camera is to use aperture priority and set the aperture as wide as it will go. This lets in a lot of light and give you a very shallow depth of field.  If you are taking portraits for instance, you will want your subject in that shallow depth of field and the Christmas lights placed behind your subject.  Because the lights are out of your depth of field, they will not be sharp and in focus and will turn into blurry bokeh! If you can’t adjust your aperture low enough to get a bokeh effect, another way to work around this is to create physical space between your subject and the Christmas lights.  Doing this will manipulate your depth of field and still give you the bokeh effect you want. More distance created will increase the blurriness of the Christmas lights, so play around with how far your subject is from the lights to get the right amount of bokeh.

With a few camera settings and adjustments to the way you normally shoot, capturing Christmas lights is a breeze!  I hope these few tips help you approach shooting holiday pictures this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!