The holidays are finally upon us, which means you basically can’t walk out of your house without being greeted by blow-up Santas and lights as far as the eye can see. Holiday decor comes alive when the sun goes down, and nothing says “yuletide cheer” like driving around town and checking out the creative and cozy ways that people have decorated their homes and businesses. But how do you capture these delicate, twinkly light displays in a unique and stylish way?
AdoramaTV‘s Gary Hoey shares tips for shooting long exposure images of holiday lights that will creatively capture the festive season –– and from inside a moving car, no less!
1. Set Up Your Car
To quote our favorite early-aughts MTV show, it’s time to pimp your ride… With a bunch of camera equipment. You’ll be shooting at nighttime, but it’s best to prep during the day so you can organize gear in anticipation of getting those stunning and dramatic shots. You’ll want to tidy up the interior of your car, and clean the windows on the inside and out. Don’t forget, you’re photographing through the glass –– any spots on your screen will show!
2. Pick The Right Equipment
The actual camera you use is less important than your lens. You want to choose the widest lens you own (Gary prefers the Canon EF 8-15mm fisheye zoom) and then attach it and the camera to a small tripod, which you’ll strategically place in the back seat of your car so that the camera is leaning forward between the front seats. This way, you’ll have a great view out the front windshield.
3. Choose Your Settings
When it comes to specific settings, Gary suggests working in AV (aperture priority) mode and using an f/8-f/11 aperture. He sets his white balance to tungsten or incandescent, which is most likely to be the temperature of those festive twinkle lights you’ll be photographing. When it comes to shutter speed, the long-exposure look requires a speed of anywhere between 2-30 seconds, depending on how many lights are on the street and how fast you’re zooming past them. The faster you push pedal to the metal, the shorter your shutter speed can be! But how do you light up the inside of your car? Don’t bother with a flash. Your phone’s flashlight app will give off just the right amount of light to illuminate the car’s interior.
4. Think About Your Composition
Finally, you want to compose your shot. Don’t zoom in too far at risk of losing the wing mirrors in the frame, and don’t zoom out too far or the driver’s head will be distorted. Somewhere right in the middle should be perfect!
Once you’ve found a composition you like, you’ll be ready to hop in the back seat and start taking photos of the festivity around you. With these tips and just a bit of luck, this year’s holiday card is in the bag!