Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Light Night Photography

A few days before Christmas, we went on a little family excursion to Bellingrath Gardens, a lovely little place near Mobile Alabama which features some fantastic light displays around this time of year. And predictably, I brought along my camera to attempt some photos of the glowy goodness.

Photographing glowy things in the dark can be very fun and very challenging -- I've blogged before about my attempt to capture a glow-in-the-dark night parade, which you can read about here. This time around it was a little easier -- my subjects weren't moving along on a parade route, so it was possible to slow down and re-take shots if necessary.

Because in my experience, night photography generally involves some trial and error, taking multiple shots to get just one that turns out how you want. This is especially true if you're working without a tripod, as I happened to be in this case -- while it's possible to get some shots that turn out passably sharp, I always end up with three or four times as many "duds" that are just a blurry mess.

Another thing I experimented with this time around was exposure. Using the correct exposure recommended by the camera, it seemed that I would capture only bright points of light on a flat black background -- but when I increased the exposure to +1 or even +2, I was able to capture more of the ambient light that makes a Christmas light display seem so magical when you see it in person.

Reviewing the photos afterward, it was clear that I'd gone overboard with the exposure in a few cases -- and of course, the longer shutter speeds made it even harder to get sharp shots in the dark. But despite the need for further practice and experimentation, I was generally pretty happy with the feel of the photos I got using this technique.

The photos in this blog post are just a very small sampling of the Christmas lights photos I took that night -- to see the rest, check out my Bellingrath Lights photoset on Flickr.


  1. Wow, these photos came out so well! I've never had luck photographing Christmas lights, but I've also never done more than just point and shoot.

  2. Thanks for the comment! This is probably the first time I've gotten a batch of Christmas lights photos to turn out reasonably well, and I had a lot of fun with it.


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