As the days are shorter, getting great photos can be tricky. The lighting is poor, and let's face it, everyone is tired of being stuck indoors. That's why I've put together a photo recipe for capturing your child with Christmas lights. On Monday, I held a Capture Your Magical Holiday Lights Photo Event where I went through everything (and more) that I'm going to talk about here. The ladies got hands on practice with me right there (a preview of what my workshops are like). It was so much fun, and I can't wait to show you what they captured at the end of the post!
At the event we went over several ways to use Christmas lights, but today I'm going to focus just on using a single strand of lights in the dark. Using Me Ra Koh's Photo Recipe format (for more inspiring and easy to follow recipes, check out her latest book "Your Child in Pictures").
When: Early evening when it's dark out. I recommend after dinner (fed kids=happy kids).
Prep: Set up is simple, choose a dark space where you have access to a plug in your lights. I chose my dining room for several reasons. The hardwood floors allow the light to bounce and act as a mini reflector. I can also set the kids in the room away from the walls so the light may drop off behind them leaving just the light on them. I moved the table and chairs out of the way to give us a more open space for the kids (since we had several of them).
Point & Shoot and Smart Phone Users: Turn off your flash. Choose the continuous shooting mode to capture a few quick photos in a row. Don't panic if one of your shots in continuous shooting turns out black while the others are properly lit. It's a strange effect of shooing light (which light moves!) Set your camera to night mode to allow for a higher ISO and help you capture the low light. If you're using your smartphone, touch a place on your child's face or near the lights. This allows your phone to meter for their face.
Here's a great photo one of the ladies captured with her point and shoot camera!
DSLR Users: Turn off your flash. Choose the continuous shooting mode to help capture those quick reactions and sweet moments as they play with the lights. Select Aperture Priority Mode (Av) and turn the dial to an f/stop of f/2-f/1.4 (or as low as your lens will allow you to go, which may be 3.5-5.6). You'll also need to change your ISO to a high number to allow more light in. In these photos I used between 1250 and 1600.
Compose: You could compose the shot either horizontally or vertically. I chose vertically to most capture my kids with the lights. But try both ways and see what you like! Because I wanted to show the lights and the reflection on the floor, i chose to have a wider shot, showing their entire body as they sat on the floor.
Capture: When taking this photo, focus on your child's face. However, don't be afraid to try other focal points, like focusing on the lights to let your child's expression blur behind the lights a bit, or even on their hands or feet as they sit on the floor.
Bonus Tip: Try moving your location close to and far away from a wall. In the photo below, the Z was close to the wall, allowing the lights to reflect more. In the previous shots, the wall was further away allow the light to drop off and the background to black out.
Bonus Tip#2: If your kids are around Milo's age and aren't "mystified" by the lights like younger kids, trying having them count the lights. This will have them focused and interacting with the lights!
The ladies who came to the event captured some awesome shots! Like this one below of Lyndsey's daughter with my Sawyer. Aren't they so sweet?! And I just love how Lyndsey got up high and shot down on the girls. See how this changes the photo from my shot of the girls at the top of the post?
Here's an image Dawna captured of her adorable Z. And she captured it with a point and shoot! I love how she's focused on the lights here instead of his face. I also love how she's gotten in close to capture just him with the lights! Beautiful job!
Now it's your turn! Make sure you share your results on on my Facebook page!