Christmas Lights Photography Tips

In Photo Tips by Matt Shetzer

During the Christmas holiday's the City and County Building in Denver, Colorado, light up each evening for the public to enjoy. Stock Image #20090102-183345

Using a zoom technique with a long exposure, this image was created at the City and County Building in Denver, Colorado.

As the holidays approach, we dress up our neighborhoods with beautiful colorful lights providing great Christmas light night photography opportunities.

One of the fun things to do is use a zoom lens to create some unique images using a long exposure, and moving the zoom during the exposure.

Here is how you do it !

  1. Place your camera with a zoom lens on a sturdy tripod
  2. Put the camera in Manual Mode
  3. Without taking a picture, look through your eyepiece, and slowly zoom the lens and pick your starting point, and ending point zoom compositions.
  4. Start with a 10 second exposure, and set your aperture and ISO to balance the exposure.  Take a test shot to check your exposure on the histogram. (Photo tip on Histograms)
  5. Once you get your exposure set, its time to play.  Press the shutter button, and wait 5 seconds without touching the zoom.  After 5 seconds, slowly and smoothly move the zoom (in or out) for the remaining 5 seconds of the 10 second exposure.

What you will create is a subject for the first 5 seconds, and then light steaks for the remaining 5 seconds.

Once you start to see how the images are created, you can experiment with many different exposures.

Try some of the following suggestions.

  • 10 second exposure – 4 seconds still, zoom for 2 seconds, 4 seconds still
  • 10 second exposure – 8 second still, zoom for 2 seconds
  • 30 second exposure – 10 second exposure, zoom for 2 seconds, 8 second exposure, zoom for 2 seconds, 8 second exposure.

You will need to check your exposure after each shot as it will depend on how much zooming you do.  It will probably take you a couple of tries for each composition as you will fine tune your zooming speed and how long you let the exposure go without moving the zoom.

Have a lot of fun with this, and make sure you get out there because after January, its going to be a long time to wait until the lights are up again.

 

During the Christmas holiday's the City and County Building in Denver light up each evening for the public to enjoy. Stock Image #20090102-174949

During the Christmas holiday’s the City and County Building in Denver light up each evening.  This crazy photographer was out there at -20F, and  not surprisingly, the only one.