It’s that time of year again, and many have already covered the tips and tricks that surround shooting Christmas Lights.  Here’s just a few tips and sample photos to help you along the way, and give you some ideas for your own creative vision and inspiriation:

  1. Keep your shutter speed around 3-7 seconds.  Much longer than 7 seconds and the lights will start getting blown out, losing detail.  Much shorter than 3 seconds and your lights won’t have enough detail.
  2. Shoot at twilight (or early morning if the lights are still on).  This avoids the problem of needing longer exposures in darker night shots, which can cause #1.  Also, the dark blues in twilight can add some real nice depth and appeal that would otherwise be lacking in darker sky photos.  If you time it right and get clear enough skies, you can also get stars in your images!
  3. It should go without saying, but use a tripod – these long exposures are impossible without it.  To this end though, if you don’t have your tripod wrapped in foam, now is the time to do it.  Colder temps can make it downright painful to touch.
  4. Don’t try to capture too much – you have a limited window of twilight, so once that’s gone, just enjoy the rest of the evening – most of your shots after twilight won’t be “keepers”
  5. Try shooting low to get a different angle, or from above looking down – to get a better “aerial” approach.
  6. For the starburst effect without the star filter, drop your aperture down to f16 or smaller – lights will start to exhibit the starburst effect at these smaller apertures.

There’s my 5 tips – but there’s always more where that came from.  What about the rest of the audience?  What tips, tricks, and advice do you have for shooting the holiday lights?  Share ’em in the comments!  Here’s my sample (there’s more also up on my Flickr photo stream).  Happy shooting and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

Christmas Lights at Chatfield 1
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 1
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 2
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 2
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 3
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 3
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 4
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 4
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 5
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 5
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 6
Christmas Lights at Chatfield 6

Editor Note:  These were taken at Chatfield, part of the Denver Botanical Gardens, which are decorated every year.  A nice change of pace from shooting the downtown Denver area, and tickets go for $9.50 (adults) and $6.50 (kids).  With lots of lights and diversions for kids including hot chocolate, hay rides and more, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.  Maps, schedules, and additional information are available here.

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