Every one loves photos of Christmas lights, yet they can be very difficult to capture. To help you out this holiday season, I thought I would pass on how I got this shot. Of course, the first essential to shooting Christmas lights is to have someone decorate. I left that task to my mother in law. Once she had the lights strung and do dads hung I happened to notice the neat reflection in the window behind the tree and decided it would be a cool image.
The two essentials to this shot were lights on the tree with no other lights throwing their unpleasant rays around. To accomplish the first was easy, I turned the switch on and the tree sprang into illumination. The other factor wasn’t much more difficult, I waited until after dark and turned all the interior lights off (when I was set up for the the shot). Since it was going to be very dark, I knew I was going to need a tripod to get the shot. Since I was already committed to using a tripod, I had the flexibility to pick my ISO and aperture and let the shutter do all the work. So I set my ISO at 200 and my aperture at f/8. I chose those settings to get a clean, crisp image with a depth of field large enough to keep the entire tree in focus. I then tuned my white balance. White balance is very important in this shot, since the goal is to try to accurately portray all the colored lights on the tree. I manually set my white balance using the Kelvin scale to 3500, which is roughly the same color temperature most cameras will select in the Tungsten white balance mode. The reason for choosing this color temperature is simple, that’s the color temperature of tungsten bulbs. Christmas lights are tungsten bulbs, hence, it was a great fit. The last setting was my shutter speed to get the correct exposure. Following the in camera light meter, and a couple test shots to tweak the final look, I ended up with a shutter speed of four seconds. That’s really all it took. It’s not a very difficult shot, provided you have a stable location and can set your shutter speed slow enough to capture the light. (If you have a point and shoot without manual controls, you might want to try the shot with your fireworks scene mode) The most important in camera elements were the white balance and the shutter speed. Get those right, and you should have it made.
I trust you will have a wonderful Christmas as you exalt Christ through the celebration of His birth.