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by Phil Ball

Q. I’ve seen lots of photos of holiday lights but mine are usually lackluster and too bright. How can I get some of those good lighting photos?

A. The usual problem with lackluster photos of lights is that the flash went off. You need to start by turning off the flash. It lights up too much tree and overpowers the lights. Working without flash will likely require a long exposure; too long to hold the camera steady. You need to use a tripod or find some other way to brace the camera firmly; higher ISOs and image stabilization won’t replace firm support. Feel free to experiment and brace your camera against a bench or resting on your car door with the engine off if you’ve forgotten your tripod.

To give you an idea, my proven exposures for the holiday lights on Prescott’s Courthouse after full dark is 4 seconds @ f/5.6 using iso80 on my digital camera. Since holiday lights occur during colder weather, you will find that your batteries don’t last as long so carry a spare in an inside pocket where it will be warm. I really like photos emphasizing the light effects when taken after full dark but interesting photos can be made when there is still some light in the sky, like just after sunset. Take lots of photos at intervals of five or ten minutes because it is tricky to balance the light in the sky with the lights on the building. Happy holidays.

Published: Courier 11/15/09 - Page 5C