I took my annual shot of the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve this year. Running a little behind, but we got it done.
We love our tree. We adopted Hubby’s family tradition of adding an ornament each year for each child, commemorating something special they did that year. My own family made homemade ornaments each year, and sometimes we add those, too. There isn’t much room left on our tree because of these traditions, but it definitely feels “ours.”
To get that “glowy” tree look is really not as hard as you think. You do have to turn off that flash and go manual, though. Gulp. I know, its scary, but you can do it. Take a deep breath, switch that dial to M, and here we go.
You’ll need a tripod, or some substitute. You can use a chair, sofa, box, or whatever you have handy. My piano bench was always my favorite. If you don’t use a tripod, you end up with something like this:
I actually took that picture with my tripod, but my little guy bumped it slightly, so we have “painting with light” photos.
Next, if you know how to set your timer, or if you have a handy remote shutter, this is the time to bring them out. It is not necessary, but it lowers your chances of painting with light when that is not your intention. Anything you can do to keep that camera still.
Now you’ll want to turn off the other lights in the room and crank up your ISO. As high as it will go to make up for all of the light we just eliminated. This is what creates your glow. Most beginner DSLR’s go up to 1600, so go straight there and give it a try. You’ll want to set your f-stop low if you want big bright lights, or high if you want those starbursts. Then try your shutter speed somewhere around 1/50 and see where you are. Adjust up or down depending on how much light you’re getting. (Slower shutter lets in more light). These were taken at 1/60 sec, ISO 3200, and f2.2. That might be a good place for you to start, and adjust from there. Here is my favorite from the week. Little guy was playing legos with the big kids, and just couldn’t make it any longer.
That’s it! These last photos I’m posting were just for fun. Sometimes, you have to take pictures that you know won’t go over the mantle (or anybody’s mantle) just because they’re fun to take. While my son and I took the light-painting shot above, I remembered a fun technique that I thought he’d get a kick out of. If you crank down that ISO a few notches and lengthen out that shutter speed, you have time to “zoom” your telephoto lens while it is exposing the shot. He thought this was so cool. We took these with a four-second exposure. Once he heard the first click, he turned the barrel on the zoom until he heard the second click. This is what we came up with.
Like I said, nothing to hang on the mantle, but they were really fun to play with. I’ve seen frame-worthy stuff using this technique on trees against a sunset, or lights with a more striking centerpiece than our little snowman. You get the idea, right?
If you want an in-depth tutorial about Christmas tree shots, there are couple here:
To create starburst lights: I Heart Faces
Basic tree photos: Unskinny Boppy Tutorial
Really beautiful with the kids: Liliblueboo