Here are some tips for photographing light displays:
1. Use a good, sturdy tripod. This will allow you to capture images in low light and with a low ISO and slow shutter speeds. Without a tripod it is hard not to have motion blur. Your photo will look better when you use a tripod. Just make sure you turn off your camera’s vibration control or image stabilization.
2. Use your camera’s timer or a shutter release to reduce camera vibration. Camera movement and vibrations are the biggest cause for soft or out-of-focus photos.The use of a tripod and timer/shutter release is the best way to prevent this issue.
3. Bring extra batteries and keep them in your pocket. Cold weather drains the batteries,so having a warm back-up will allow you to keep shooting. When you switch batteries, place the dead battery back into your pocket, warming it up will allow you to get more shots.
4. Allow your camera to get acclimated before and after shooting in the cold. A cold camera brought back inside will have condensation form on it and that is bad.
5. Exposure can be tricky. Your camera will not expose the image correctly in auto mode. I personally shoot in manual mode, but any mode that allows you to control the exposure will work. Here is my base exposure to start with: ISO 100, f/5.6 at 4seconds. This can vary greatly depending on the environment. When I shoot at Candy Cane Lane in St. Louis Hills there is a good amount of light and I can shoot with a shorter shutter speed or higher F-Stop. I will also play around for different effects (see photos below)
6. Dress warmer than you think. You will be standing around not moving much, so wear extra layers. I use the ProMaster gloves for my hands. They are warm and the gloves finger tips come off allowing me to use my fingers to adjust my camera.
7. Play and experiment with different settings, hand positions, and focus or zoom changes while exposing.
Here are some examples:
Most of all, have fun, stay warm, and share your photos with family and friends.