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What You Need to Take Better Photos of Christmas Lights
It doesn't matter whether you are using a DSLR or a decent point-and-shoot camera, you can still take better photos of Christmas lights. The key to successfully photographing Christmas lights is knowing how to take it. Knowing how to take it includes - best composition and framing of your subject, considering the ambient light available and using the proper setting of your camera.
Better Composition and Framing - There is no rule of thumb really when it comes to composition and framing of your shots when photographing Christmas lights. But most often than not, the Christmas lights that you are photographing are either placed as ornaments to a Christmas tree or spread in various shapes on a wall and sometimes as adornment to the facade of a house. This gives you more room to come up with a better way of framing and composing your photos. If the Christmas lights are placed around a Christmas tree, naturally you will take a shot of the whole Christmas tree. Try to position yourself in a distance that would give you enough space to enclose the Christmas tree in a square frame. And also, take various angles of the Christmas tree to come up with the most dramatic one. For Christmas lights that adorn the facade of the house or any edifice, it would be best to capture the structure with enough spaces surrounding it. Chances are, your final photo will show the structure with dark background. This way, the Christmas Lights lighting up the structure will be highlighted.
Proper Camera Settings - Since you are taking a photo of a light, naturally it is best to take it without the flash. There is already enough ambient light, using a flash will only create too much shadow due to too much reflection created by the flash light and the Christmas lights. It is also advisable to set your camera's ISO to a higher value to provide additional brightness to your photos. Use a longer exposure as well. A good combination would be something like IS0 400 with an f-stop of 8 and 1/30th exposure of a second. This might not be enough especially in a totally dark environment with only the Christmas lights on so you might want to adjust your exposure setting to around 1/15th or 1 second while adjusting the f-stop setting to 5.6. But this are just some of the settings that you may want to use, feel free to adjust until you've capture the perfect photo.
Extra Tips - Since you'd be using longer exposure setting for your camera, your shutter speed will be slow. As we all know a slow shutter speed tends to produce too much noise due to camera shake. So, it is highly advisable that you use a tripod to prevent noise due to camera shake. If you don't have a tripod, mount your camera to a stable stand and use your camera's timer to take the shot. In addition, you may also want to turn off you camera's image stabilization feature. This will in a way reduce camera shaking.
There you have it. Three simple tips for taking better photos of Christmas lights.