How to Photograph Fairy Lights

Fairy lights, Christmas lights and street lights. We are attracted to lights. And they look amazing in pictures. The following tips can be applied in many lighting situations, so use them as a guideline and add your own creativity. We’ll focus on two ways photographers like to capture lights.

1. Christmas lights
Keep your camera steady. You’re going to be shooting in low light, and will need to keep the shutter open a bit longer, so you need a tripod. Or you could try keeping the camera steady by resting your arm on a table or chair etc. The longer your exposure time, the more stable your support needs to be. Keep your ISO low and your shutter slow. This is to keep noise or grain to a minimum. Think of capturing a smooth, creamy background. The ambient light in your room will add warmth and context to your picture. You just don’t want your shutter so slow that your lights no longer stand out against the dark room. Focus for creativity. Not all the lights need to be in focus. Shoot from an angle and open up your aperture to blur your background. But if you want them all in focus, stand back or shoot with a wider angle lens. Close down your aperture to something like f16 or smaller and you will also start to notice small starbursts around the individual twinkles of the lights. Try using manual focus. Twist the focus ring until the image becomes blurry. This will bring out the bokeh from the lights, making your image glow with colour! This combined with a slow shutter will give a nice warm feel to your image. Avoid using flash. A direct flash will tend to flatten your images and you’ll lose the ambient glow of the fairy lights. If you need to use flash to add some light, lower it’s power, and bounce it off the ceiling or a wall to diffuse the light.

2. Models and fairy lights

Make sure you use the right lens. You want your subject to be in focus with quite a blurred or ‘bokeh’ background. To achieve the ‘bokeh’ look, use a lens that has a very shallow depth of field (a very wide aperture). Lenses that have f1.8, f1.4, f1.2 apertures are the perfect lenses. The lower the number, the better your ‘bokeh’.
Stay close. To get the pretty bokeh lights and blurred background, you want to stand around about an arm’s length from your model. The closer you are to your subject, the shallower your depth of field will be.
Ask your model to hold one end of the lights and you (the photographer) hold the other end. The lights should come from your model out to your lens to give your picture depth, but get creative with the positioning. Wrap them around hands, props, even the front of your lens. Try using more or less lights to change the mood. Make sure your focus is on your model’s eyes. Keep your ambient light low, or shoot at twilight. You want light but not too much, to create a soft, warm, moody feel to your pictures.
Give these tips a go and add your own creativity. We want to see what you come up with, so please share them with us on Instagram or Facebook. Let us know what tips helped you most, and share any tips you’ve discovered!

Tips from Carters Photographics.

42 Grey Street

Phone 07 578 9417
Fax 07 578 9421

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