Holiday season is almost here, and soon our streets will be lined with beautiful, festive holiday lights. Pictures of your home or business decorated with sparkling lights can be an appealing post for a website or social media. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to take a night-time photo without a flash.
Recently, we had the chance to take some photos at Toledo Zoo’s “Luminous Nights” exhibit, and it reminded us to share some of our favorite night-time photography tips. (And of course, some of the fun photos too!)
Although it’s an older post, “Christmas Light Photography Tips” by Chuck Delaney remains one of the best posts about night photography. As Chuck explains, the most important aspect of shooting at night without a flash is the shutter speed. To capture all the detail of the twinkling lights, you need to leave the shutter open for a few seconds at least. Of course, that means using a tripod at night is highly recommended.
If you don’t have a tripod, use something around you to steady your hand while taking a picture. You can prop your camera up on a fence post, lean against a wall, or even lay down on the ground. Just try your best to keep your camera steady.
In addition to shutter speed, adjusting your ISO or aperture (aka F-stop) can give you a broad range of results. If you only want to see the lights in your photo, try an ISO around 100, and turn your F-stop up to an 8 or 10. If you want to capture more of the building and surrounding setting, an ISO of 400 might produce the result you’re trying to achieve.
Whatever you’re shooting, remember to try a few different options on each of your photos to be sure you end up with something you like. And remember, if you want some help, SF Project Studio is just a phone call away.
Here are some of the photos we took at Toledo Zoo. We shot these with a Cannon 6D mark ii, a Tamron 24-70mm G2, but we opted to skip the tripod for this outing!