christmas lights---how to photograph them?


TPF Noob!
Dec 14, 2007
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wylie texas
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i am going to a christmas lights light show tonight and it is a drive through kind of and i am going to be in the car and so i cant bring my tripod (they wont let you out of your car to take photos) so i want to know the best shutter speed, aperture, etc to take the best photos of christmas lights without making them look like streaks of lights.
You'll have to crank up your ISO if you want to shoot fast. Stop down as much as possible.
too late now

i ended up bringing my about a tight space in the front seat...
these are the ones i got and they are not edited
they aren't good but here are a few






there are more but again...these are enough torture
Were those by chance taken in Virgina?
They look like the exact same light show I go to in virginia every year :)
Not that its really on topic... but if you want to see a real Christmas light show, check it out:

Yes, thats a real house and not some computer graphics app showing off. :) They did it for charity... not sure if they did it again this year. I went last year to see them, it was INCREDIBLE.

Keeps a photographer busy... and wishing they had a videocam there instead... lol
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xmas lights are incredibly hard to photograph. I went to niagara falls last year and tried to photograph a display they had. All of the pictures looked horrible. Must be a real talent to be able to get xmas lights to look good in a picture.
If you check the Strobist link I posted he really gives a good how-to on shoting Christmas lights effectively. I think one of the most important things he says is if you really want to get good shots do not wait until it is totally dark. This may go against your first instinct but I think it is a great suggestion as some of the ambient light gives you good context to the dis-embodied lights. But there is lot more there it is an excellent resource if you like to shoot them.
Why does it seem that most of the programmed light shows are using the same song. The first house that hit the web years ago, then the Miller Brewing house (seen in the ads on TV), replays on football highlights this weekend, and this house. All the same song. Something about imitation? :lol:

Maybe next year, but mostly you expose for the lights, which means like fireworks, you can shut down quite a bit more than you think, use a fast shutter speed and still get nice lights as dots.

For fireworks you probably want to shut down more, use slower shutter speeds and get streaks of light, but you can also capture sharp, frozen light displays as well.

Nice pictures everyone. Maybe next year for the contest of the month in December (hint, hint :D ) the subject could be Holiday Lights. Yes, the 4th is a holiday too, so anything from the whole year would fit, but also Christmas lights.

Good Strobist article is for balanced light with background and lights, which is more interesting.

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