Tips for Terrific Holiday Light Photography:

Photographing holiday lights can seem intimidating, but all you really need is a quality point and shoot camera and a bit of insight as to how to ensure the decorations take center stage:

Timing is Key: Some professionals recommend photographing outdoor decorative lighting shortly BEFORE the sun sets. Try to be at your location and ready well in advance. During the dusk period, youíll find a pleasant balance of diminishing ambient light contrasting with the holiday lights, which means youíll be able to include more objects in the background.

Bring Your Tripod: Using a tripod is especially important when photographing holiday lights. A tripod provides stability, something that is particularly critical with low-light photography. It will also keep your image properly framed as the evening light transitions from dusk to darkness. Long exposure images are vulnerable to camera shake, so avoid handheld shooting if at all possible. If you donít have a tripod, find a nearby wall or fence to provide additional support.

Tungsten Setting: Holiday lights use tungsten lighting so youíll want to set your white balance to tungsten as well. Using this setting will provide a nice contrast between the background sky and the lights. With a point and shoot camera, many of todayís models have a setting for nighttime shooting. Your flash may fire because it is interpreting that you have a subject that needs to be lit, but unless the decorations are only a few feet away, it wonít make much difference. This leads us to our next tipÖ

Forget the Flash: For holiday lights, itís best to let the decorations take center stage so keep your flash off. A strong DSLR flash can wash out the image and detract from the final result.

A Shot a Minute Sequence: Once you have everything set, begin taking a photograph every minute or so. Your eyes may not register the gradual changes of the setting sun so track the time with your watch or cell phone. Shoot once per minute or so over a 10-15 minute period. Youíll see the changes in evening lighting as you scroll though your shots.

Photographing holiday lights will not only help you experiment with low-light photography, it can also be a great way to share your expertise with the younger photographers in your life. If you have a child or young relative that loves to take pictures, why not bring that budding photographer along? Think of it as a mini holiday photo safari!
Joel Paymer
Camera Land
575 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10022