Tip #1 - Be mindful of the ambient light in the room. If you desire to include details like tree ornaments in the photo, be sure to turn on a lamp or two in the room. You may also want to turn off your flash as it will typically wash out the warm and cozy color in the room, though it might be necessary to include a fill flash if you’re also taking a portrait of someone in front of the tree.
Tip #2 - Whether you own a point-and-shoot camera or a digital SLR, use a tripod, use a tripod, use a tripod—yes, it’s that important!
Tip #3 - If your lens has a switch to turn off image
stabilization, turn it off. The vibration of the lens will cause the
camera to move slightly during a long exposure.
Tip #4 - If you’re photographing the tree by itself, turn off your flash and use a longer exposure. Set your camera’s ISO to 400 and then take some test shots on Manual or (M) mode instead of Program (P) or Automatic (A). Adjust the shutter speed and/or f-stop until the exposure looks right. As a place to start, try setting the ISO to 400, the f-stop to 8 and the exposure to 1/30th of a second. If the image appears too dark, increase your exposure to 1/15th or 1 second. Using an f-stop setting of 5.6, for example, will achieve a more shallow depth of field but require a shorter exposure than higher settings, such as f/16.
Tip #5 - If you don’t own a cable release or shutter remote for your digital camera, use the camera’s self timer to avoid shaking the camera during exposure.
Tip #6 - If your photo appears too orange for your taste, in the
camera’s menu, adjust the white balance settings to tungsten.
Tip #7 - For capturing outdoor light displays, use the same exposure theory as you would for indoor shots, but switch the white balance settings to outdoor. I prefer to photograph outdoor displays around 30-40 minutes after sunset so that the camera can still record ambient light and capture some color that remains in the sky. For a shot like the one above, switch to aperture priority mode, set your f-stop to 5.6 or 8 and let the camera determine the proper exposure for you. Don’t forget to use the exposure compensation button (that’s the +/- button) to tweak the exposure: Use the (+) settings in increments to lighten the image and the (–) settings in increments to darken the image.
Tip #8 - Want to get this effect with the Christmas lights in your photo? Place a star filter in front of your lens and twinkle away!
THERE ... You’re all set to snap some amazing pictures of your Christmas tree and all the wonderful outdoor displays. Happy holidays!