Capturing Christmas Lights

When it comes to capturing Christmas lights with a point and shoot camera, it helps to find the right setting.

It has taken me a while–years, actually–to find the right setting on my current camera. I used to know exactly how to take night shots with lights on the old camera. It was easy. But the newer one stumped me right up until this year.

This year, it took more trial and error, but I finally discovered that Shuttle Priority Auto was the setting that worked the best. I’m using a Nikon Coolpix.

Christmas lights at night: taken with a Nikon Coolpix

Christmas lights at night: taken with a Nikon Coolpix

Places these photos were taken: Wilderness Ridge and around Sheridan in Lincoln, Nebraska. I didn’t take a lot of photos. For one thing, I tend to get a little car sick at times, especially when I’m not the one driving. But we had a pleasant outing.

Tips for capturing a fantastic Christmas lights photo

Look for homes and street scenes with a good balance of lighting: not too much, not too little. Over-the-top Christmas lighting probably isn’t going to show up as well, particularly with the Shutter Priority Auto camera setting.

The dark acts as “white space”.

Find a focal point. Designs that form an interesting focal point make the best photos, of course. A well-decorated tree or a beautiful creche scene, maybe a repeating display of colorfully lit bushes.

Hold the camera as still as possible. A tripod would be useful for this, but isn’t workable if you’re taking photos out of a car window. Steadying your elbow on the armrest works pretty well in a pinch.

If you can capture the reflection of the lights in ice or lights glowing through a layer of snow, that’s an added bonus.

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