Photographing Holiday Lights

by Linda Eodice

Snowmen - Zoomed-Lens Effect
Snowmen - Zoomed-Lens Effect
© Linda Eodice
All Rights Reserved
Holiday lights at night present some magical photo opportunities, and here are a few things to keep in mind when shooting lights in your neighborhood:
  • Make sure you put your camera on a sturdy tripod and use a cable release or remote switch. You’ll probably be working with exposure times of one second or longer – even with some of the brightest lights.

  • If you must use a hand-held camera, use a high ISO setting such as 400 to 1600.

  • You can set your camera on Auto, or if you’re comfortable using the aperture- and shutter-priority modes, experiment with the aperture-priority mode at settings like f/8 or f/11 to get great depth of field.

  • Turn off your flash! You’ll want to use ambient light only.

  • Experiment with the Auto white balance setting on your camera, and use Tungsten WB if you’re getting overly warm tones.

  • Try to fill the frame with your subject and avoid getting large black areas with no lights.

  • To capture exciting streaks of color bursting forth from the center of the frame, try zooming your lens manually during a long exposure time in the shutter-priority mode. This technique works especially well when shooting multi-colored lights against a dark background, like holiday lights against the night sky.

  • You can zoom through your lens’s entire zoom range, or just part of it. I used only part of the zoom range on my 24 – 105mm lens at one second to capture the zoomed-lens image of these illuminated snowmen.

Snowmen Family - 'Straight' shot
Snowmen Family - 'Straight' shot
© Linda Eodice
All Rights Reserved
You can also zoom from a short focal length out, or the other way around. This technique takes some practice, but it’s fun, and no two photos will look alike!


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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Linda Eodice
Photography Instructor: Linda EodiceThe author of Photos That Inspire, Lynne Eodice teaches a number of excellent online classes for BetterPhoto.com (see the current course listing below.) She is also the former Feature Editor for Petersen’s PHOTOgraphic.

A native of Southern California, Lynne was educated at Pasadena City College and Cal Poly Pomona. Her love of photography began after her husband gave her a 35mm SLR as an anniversary gift. She began her career as a feature writer & photographer for local newspapers that included Pasadena Weekly and The Herald Tribune.

Besides having articles and photos published regularly in PHOTOgraphic, she has contributed to Rangefinder, Digital Photographer and California Tour & Travel, as well as PHOTOgraphic’s Buyer’s Guide, Big Book of Photography and Family Photo magazines. Her images have appeared in a popular instructional book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Photography, and she has marketed her stock photos through Index Stock Imagery in New York.

Lynne has exhibited her fine-art scenic photography at Kolb Studio and the visitor’s center at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California, and at venues throughout the San Gabriel Valley. In addition, she has taught many classes, seminars and workshops.

In the fall of 2007, she was honored as one of the Women Achievers in the San Gabriel Valley in Business Life magazine.

Lynne currently lives with her husband, Dennis and their dog, Chiquita in Altadena, California.