Its soon time to end shooting the Christmas lights for the season. So get out for the next week and grab a few shots of your favorite lights to enjoy over the next year. I know my kids love to see slide shows we make with Smilebox and send out to friends and family. If you have not played with Smilebox, you should try it at least once. It is one of the better slideshow services for free. Not perfect by far but certainly usable.
A few tips for getting the nice shots are to shoot:
1: Unless you have a full frame rig, embrace the grain and shoot at a high ISO. These images were shot at ISO 2000 or higher and I used Noiseware afterwards in post to clean them up.
2: Shoot on a custom white balance. My D300 shot nicely at 3000K and while this worked for the normal light bulbs, the LEDs were all over the map as are some of the small lights. So be prepared in post to work it out.
3: Gel your flash. I used a 1/4 cut CTO but I should have used 1/2 cut CTO. This will keep you or at least help you from getting pretty lights in the background with pasty white faces.
4: Shoot with a stablized lens or use a Pentex with a stablized body 🙂 I shoot Nikon so it’s VR lenses for my.
5: Drag the shutter a bit when using the flash to get the pretty background lighting.
6: Dont forget to shoot wide and get some details. Some folks really put in the effort on their lights and it shows in the details.
7: Be ready for the unexpected shot. I had “Santa” come cruising by on his motorcycle as part of the visiting crowd.
8: Shooting manual is where it’s at to get the best shots. Nothing about shooting Christmas lights at night is considered a “normal” shot so most camera settings are wrong. Most of the time I was shooting at ISO 2000, 1/40 second and 5.6 aperture. The flash power would vary from 1/128 to 1/32.
9: Shoot the faces. The expressions on the kids faces are priceless and are the money shots from something like this.
10: I dont have to contend with snow but snow works like a giant reflector. You will need to really pay attention to your settings when popping off the flash to avoid blowing out the image.
I have some shots here from around my own neighborhood. Enjoy the holiday and Merry Christmas from us to you.