So I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how to take a picture of a baby/child with Christmas lights and now that it is the holidays, I figured why not give a little tutorial?
Before we begin, take note that most Christmas lights have lead on them, so make sure the baby DOES NOT put them in their mouth and that you wash their hands immediately afterward!
Now, let’s take a look at what we are trying to accomplish:
f2.8, 1/125, ISO 1250 – using 80-200mm at 105mm
f2.8, 1/160, ISO 1600 – using 50mm
The goal is to have the lights glowing and the face of the child well lit. Let’s start with the basic camera settings and then we can get into other lighting tips and tricks.
I’m going to assume that you have a DSLR and are familiar with the basic controls. In order to pull in the amount of light in a quick enough time that your subject isn’t blurred, you will need to do two things:
1) Set a wide aperture (low f-stop number) like f2.8
2) Bump up your ISO to around 800-1250 (not an exact science)
3) Make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/100th to freeze the subject
Now those numbers above aren’t the magic formula, but they give you a good starting point. If the Christmas lights aren’t bright enough, bump up the ISO or slow down your shutter speed (just not too slow!!).
The tricky part now comes down to having the child lit enough that you can see them too! I’ll admit that I tried all kinds of things to get that “perfect shot” and I’ve found that the best look was having some natural light come through a window in the direction of the child. Basically, any soft diffused light will work. You don’t want them sitting in sunlight, but not in the complete darkness either.
I took lots of practice shots when the room was really dark and I got cool pictures, but the child was mostly lit from the Christmas lights and that produced uneven bright and dark spots on them. If your focus is to just get the lights or be artistic, then by all means go this route. I happen to like it when the child is evenly and well lit and the Christmas lights are brighter.
Here is the picture from above before I touched it up:
In this setup, the lights were off, but the window was directly to my left, lighting up the side of her face. (just a little light coming in around 6pm) The Christmas lights are lighting up the other side of the face that is in soft shadow.
I hope this helps you! Again, the main focus is to have your ISO bumped up and your aperture open wide (lowest f-stop number).
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below and I’ll make sure to answer them!