How To Capture Holiday Lights With Digital Cameras

There’s nothing that says “Holidays” like bright lights and amazing front yard displays. Commercial buildings come to life with brilliantly lit Saint Nick’s and Rudolphs, while neighbors compete to see who can jam the most wattage into their lights-fantastic. Who hasn’t driven past houses that sport lighted deer, elves on the roof, or even a mock Elvis singing Blue Christmas?? And of course, is there a digital photographer with a corporate event photo booth rental Orlando alive who doesn’t want to capture it all in pixels?

Here’s how:

Get a Tripod

Since you’re going to be shooting at less than 1-second, you’ll definitely need a tripod or a monopod, unless you’re that rare individual who can hold a camera steady for less than 1/30 of a second. If you don’t want to purchase a tripod (and they’re not that expensive!), look for a SOLID surface on which to set your camera. But remember, if there’s even the slightly chance of your camera falling or getting knocked off by someone else, invest in a tripod. Once your camera is set up, unlock the pan head so you can easily and fluidly pan from one scene to another—or across a large scene for a panorama.


Turn Off Your Flash

Even though you’re shooting at night, remember to turn off your flash. First off, it doesn’t have an effective range much past 10 or 15 feet, so if you’re shooting a holiday light display, all the flash will do is cause harsh reflections. Secondly, if you want people in the picture you’ll get a much more natural skin tone without the flash. Lastly, if you’re taking shots of your own Christmas tree, (like on Christmas morning with the kids tearing into their presents) your flash can do all sorts of wild reflections on ornaments, tinsel, and shiny paper. Of course, if that’s the effect you’re going for (and experiment, please!), and then go for it.


Dial in a Faster ISO

Many digital cameras will let you dial in a faster film speed setting (ISO). If you were still shooting with real film, to shoot lights you’d buy a fast film, i.e. 200 or 400 ISO. This setting tells your camera how sensitive the imaging sensor should be. Under ordinary circumstances, your camera will be set to the lowest possible ISO setting in order to maximize digital noise. However, if you dial up the ISO you can capture great low light pics (like those Christmas tree ones).



Don’t wait until the middle of December to start practicing your light display photos. There isn’t a mall on earth that isn’t brilliantly lit during most evening hours, so take your equipment out tonight and start experimenting. Set your camera to manual and dial in a long aperture setting. Then, start shooting! If you don’t like the results, try changing the aperture setting, or dial in different shutter speeds. This isn’t rocket science—it’s just a case of trying combinations until you find the one that you like best.