Christmas will soon be here, which means it’s time once more for beautiful and dazzling light-ups all over Singapore.
There’s no better way to capture the festive mood of Christmas than with photographs of the many light installations and themed decorations. From Orchard Road (where it all began) to Gardens by the Bay to even your neighbourhood shopping mall, there are plenty of cheerful and heartwarming scenes just waiting to be captured by your camera.
To help you make the most of your photographs, here are some tips to try when shooting this year’s Christmas Light-up.
1. Make the Whole Scene a Part of the Story
The most popular venue for shooting the Christmas light-up is undoubtedly Orchard Road. The popular shopping district is loved by locals and tourists alike, which means it’s likely that you’ll encounter crowds while setting up your shot.
Use this to your advantage by making the people, buildings and traffic a part of the scene to help tell your story.
The shot above was likely a challenging one – the endless parade of vehicles driving past could have made for a messy and distracting foreground.
By slowing down the shutter speed for a longer exposure, the vehicles are allowed to soften into streaks of lights, adding a luminous quality to the shot. At the same time, the colours present in the scene had enough time to be fully picked up by the camera.
The result is a vibrant and dynamic shot that retained enough detail and sharpness to clearly show the scene – and the Christmas decorations that enhance it.
In another similar shot, the decorations were captured in sharp detail, while the lens flares from the streetlamps and the dream-like blur of the moving crowd add a whimsical touch.
Try this by shooting with a smaller aperture and slow shutter speed. Remember to use a higher ISO to compensate for the relatively low light levels.
Avoid the temptation to isolate the Christmas decorations in your shot. Instead, include their surroundings in your composition to help convey the atmosphere and mood of the scene, as shown in this photo above.
2. Go With a Different Perspective
With Christmas Light-up decorations being such popular photography subjects, photo streams are bound to end up looking a little bit similar. To help your shots stand out, try going for a different perspective.
One tip to try is to get up-close with your camera, like in this shot above.
Instead of shooting the trees from far away, (and ending up with a generic-looking shot), create a more interesting composition by zooming in on the Christmas ornaments hanging from the branches. Here, you’ll be compelled to linger and examine the reflections in the silvery spheres.
To help further zoom in on the details, use a smaller f-stop for a shallow depth of field. The principal subject (in this case, the star) will stand out more clearly, and you get a nice bokeh background as a bonus.
Another trick you can try is to shoot the Christmas decorations from an unexpected angle, transforming a familiar object into something else entirely.
In this shot, you are presented with an unusual view that reveals new details about the decorations. Can you guess where this place is?
Here’s another stunning shot, made possible by choosing to shoot upwards from below.
3. Throw in a Prop
Another way to create stunning Christmas Light-up photos is by using a prop that has been gaining popularity.
That’s right – we’re talking about crystal balls. Because Christmas decorations are already chock-full of lights, including a crystal ball in your shooting can produce some dramatic results.
Here, choosing to shoot with the crystal ball allowed the photographer to transform an ordinary street scene into something quite magical. Because the scene is “contained” in the crystal ball, you can’t help but feel that you’re peering into an otherworldly dimension filled with light and wonder.
In this shot, the crystal ball acts as focal point for the shot (taken from within Wheelock Place’s iconic glass cone). Though muted into a rich bokeh field, the glittering lights and shiny decorations in the background nevertheless retain their ability to evoke the feel of Christmas.
To attempt similar photos of your own, remember to isolate the background from the foreground, otherwise, your photo may be filled with too many competing elements. To do this, use a larger aperture (smaller f-stop) to blur out the background.
4. It’s All About the Christmas Trees
And last but certainly not least, remember that it’s all about the Christmas trees. Recognised as the most well-known symbol of Christmas all over the world, the sight of a gaily lit Christmas tree can be all you need.
In this, less is more.
Make your chosen tree the subject of your photograph; it’s certainly striking enough to stand on its own.
The trick here is to isolate the Christmas tree you are shooting as much as you can. Pivot around until you get a clean background, so as to better show off your subject.
Another tip you can try is to shoot from a low angle to try and frame the tree against a quiet night sky.
Otherwise, you could always go with the flow and make the crowds part of your shot!
Just Point and Shoot
Since Christmas light-ups are designed to dazzle and ring in the Christmas spirit, they translate easily onto photos – so even a simple point-and-shoot can create gorgeous results, like the shot below.
Perhaps the best suggestion we can give is not to worry too much about getting the ‘perfect’ shot. Let yourself take in the atmosphere of the scene, and shoot from the heart.