Long exposure photography using Christmas lights!

Here's what happens when you give me a camera, a tripod and a long string of Christmas lights!

Take an over-excited blogger, give him a camera, a tripod and some Christmas lights and see what happens.

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Christmas tree lights can look very pretty when photographed using a
long exposure time.

Okay, as I was the individual in question, I’ll tell you what happened. I snuck off to the garage while the kids were busy, locked myself in there and photographed the lights using long exposure times!

The above image was the result. I appreciate it’s abstract, but it’s kind of fun, don’t you think? It’s quite captivating, I find myself getting lost staring at it. 

Here’s the story behind the picture. For the first time ever, we have hung Christmas lights on the outside of our house. It’s taken a lot to persuade me this was a good idea, but the kids really wanted us to do it and so we bought some colourful LED lights. 

Needless to say, it was my responsibility to fit them on the outside of the house while my daughters, Helen and Izzy ‘helped’. At one point I was fixing lights to the outside of an upstairs window. A long section of lights hadn’t yet been fixed in place. As they moved in the wind I thought the lights would make a great picture if captured using a long expsoure time.  

As soon as I had a spare moment, I took myself off to the garage where it was dark. I mounted my camera on a tripod, switched the Christmas lights on and simply waved the lights around in front of the lens. 

For this particular image, I used an exposure time of eight seconds. The
ISO was 160 and aperture was set to f22. This is a very narrow aperture so not what you’d typically use in dark lighting conditions, but it was ideal for getting the camera to focus on the lights. 

If you wanted to replicate this picture, you would need to use a tripod because camera shake would be an issue with exposure times of this length. I’d also suggest playing with the aperture as the image would look very different using an aperture of a different size.

This is a very simple photography technique and one that requires little preparation. Here’s another example of where I used along exposure time photographing traffic outside the Palace of Westminster in central London. 

I’ll be adding this post to the #MySundayPhoto linky hosted by the Photalife blog. Do follow this link and take a look as there will be some great photography on display from other bloggers. 

19 thoughts on “Long exposure photography using Christmas lights!”

  1. I don’t try this as often as I should but you’re inspiring me to get out there with a metal tripod in the freezing cold…umm, maybe next here. Ha, this turned out really cool though and yes I was surprised by the ap. How did you land on 160, not 100 for the ISO?

    1. Good question! The camera was on manual mode for everything apart from the ISO so it chose that itself. There was a tiny bit of light in the garage where it leaked in from the door so given the exposure time, I’m surprised the background stayed pitch back. Anyway, hope that answers your question and glad to hear the image inspired you, even if you’re not feeling brave enough to go outside just yet!

    1. Christmas lights do provide opportunities to do different thing. They’re great! May do some more experimenting with them as it happens..

  2. one of the drawbacks or a point and shot or a phone camera, none of these settings exist.Great result. Look forward to your house being on one of these tv programmes for most decorations raising money for charity.

    1. Ah, yes you would need a DSLR or a good bridge camera to have these settings. And no, afraid we’re leaving it as the one string of lights! No more.

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