The festive mood, the lights, the snow, and the decorations are only a few reasons why Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year to take pictures. I prefer taking Christmas pictures at night because I love the colorful lights. When it snows, I grab my camera and run outside.
Years ago, during the film days, photographing Christmas lights was challenging because of the limitations of film sensitivity. Fortunately, digital technology has solved this problem and photographing in low light is no longer an issue. With my camera, I have no hesitations using a high ISO because I know that the images will have only little noise and it can be corrected in Lightroom. In fact, most DSLRs today can be set to ISO as high as 12,800 and even higher.
Another problem solved by technology is the auto-exposure. Older light meters were often “fooled” by low-light situations, but today’s meters can give an excellent reading in low light conditions. This is perfect for Christmas pictures, especially if you shoot at night and you want to capture the mood and the lights. First tip: turn off your flash. You may need to use flash if let’s say you are photographing your kids under the Christmas tree, although I don’t recommend it; capture the soft glow of the tree lights on their faces.
If you don’t use flash and you are shooting in low light situations, you will notice that your shutter speed will be low and your pictures might come out blurry. Ideally, you should bring a tripod, but if you don’t have one, you can use a larger aperture and you can also increase the ISO. If your lens or camera don’t have image stabilization, make sure that your shutter speed doesn’t get lower than the focal length (for a full frame camera). If your camera has a cropped sensor, multiply the focal length by the crop factor. For example: if you are shooting at 24mm focal length, your shutter speed should not be lower than 1/24s for a full frame camera, or 1/38 for a cropped sensor with a crop factor of 1.6x (1.6×24=38).
Have a Merry Christmas!