This Christmas season, I decided to take some of what I've been learning over the past year and put it to work.
Everyone from college students decorating their dorm rooms to family members lighting their homes agree that Christmas lights are pretty. So I asked myself - why do they hardly ever look pretty in a picture then (mine at least)? After thinking it through, it makes sense. Unless you are taking a picture of just the lights, then you run into a big problem. The very thing that makes them look pretty and exude that tranquil atmosphere, is the same thing that makes them look bad in pictures - namely they are really, really dim!
What is the first thing people do to show off their lights? Turn 'em on when it is dusk out or turn off the other lights in the room when indoors. They need to be practically the brightest lights on. When you do this while trying take someone's picture by the tree for instance, automatic mode on the camera has some issues. It usually makes the Christmas lights really dim and nukes the people with the flash or the lights look decent but the people look underexposed.
The key, I learned, to getting the lights to really sparkle, is to turn off all the other lights in the room, use a flash to control the exposure of the people, and use a v e r y s l o w shutter speed to get the lights to really pop. This one was taken at 1/25th of a second, handheld.
It is funny that as an adult, we try endlessly to teach kids what Christmas is really all about, but in the end, it is them that end up doing the teaching with the things they do without being asked.