December is a great month to photograph bright, festive decorations. One of the most eye-catching decorations is also the most challenging: Holiday lights. There are many different tricks and techniques detailed below to capture the beguiling colors, glitters, and twinkles – pick the one(s) that work best for you and your equipment, and make the most of this beautiful holiday season!

Exposure Tricks

Most of the time, when photographing subjects such as lights or candles, you are in a low-light setting. However, this is one time when a flash is generally not a good option; so the first tip is to figure out how to turn off your on-camera flash.

There are three basic exposure tools to capture a great image: ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture – various combinations of these settings will optimize your camera to best capture this tricky low-light/bright-subject shot:

  • High ISO: ISO is a setting that tells your camera how sensitive it should be to light. Higher settings such as 800, 1000, 1600, 3200, etc, result in greater sensitivity – the higher the ISO, the less light you need to record an image. However, the trade-off is that higher ISOs show greater levels of ‘noise’ (that pastel speckling visible throughout some images, most noticeable in shadow and mid-tone areas).Something to keep in mind: Digital SLRs show much lower noise levels at the same ISO than digital point-and-shoots, so be cautious when choosing your exposure settings. With a PowerShot and other point-and-shoots, you may want to opt for an ISO no higher than 400 in combination with a slow shutter speed and/or wide aperture. However, with an EOS SLR, you can use an ISO of 800, 1600, or even 3200 and feel confident that you will get a very usable image.
  • Long Exposures: Exposure time, or shutter speed, is another exposure tool you can use to capture great images, even in low light. Shutter speed is measured in seconds, or fractions of seconds. Longer shutter speeds let more light strike the sensor, resulting in brighter images. Faster shutter speeds will freeze action, while slower shutter speeds show motion blur.
  • I hope that you enjoy these Tips & Tricks that I sometimes give you. Happy Shooting and enjoy.