How Do I Take Photos at The Festival of Lights? | Education

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Behind The Scenes

Looking through The Festival Of Lights blog you might think- “Wow, it all worked out so perfectly!” You would be, well- wrong. It’s not that it didn’t work out perfectly, because it did. We captured the moment, on camera, she said yes, and they loved their gallery. I’m grinning from ear to ear whenever they message me with kind words. I’m going to help you figure out how the answer to the question, “How do I take photos at The Festival of Lights?”

But the bumps in the road that came with this session… there were quite a few. Let’s break some of the down so we can talk about how you can avoid them with your own clients, choosing your camera settings, how to determine if you need to use flash, and if this is something that you’re willing on taking on!

Tips to Get These Portraits for Your Clients!

1. Use location tracking! If that doesn’t work, make sure you know the exact outfits that they’re wearing so you can find them in a crowd!

If you read our original post then you know that we had a hard time finding them once we got inside. We thought we could handle it, there were only a couple hundred people, and it didn’t look like that many people from a distance. Well- we were wrong. We had a plan, and then a back up plan. I highly suggest having that back up! When location tracking didn’t work, we looked up and down for AJ& Jade in the outfits they were wearing. How did we know? AJ sent us a picture before hand, just a normal selfie to Jade turned out to be a life saver for Drew & myself!

2. Test your flash 100 times if you have to!

I used my husband as a model for my flash almost every 15 minutes because I didn’t know when everything would start. I changed my settings as the sun went down, and then again 5 more times once the lanterns were lit. Was this overkill? Oh 100%! I knew that I had what I needed, but I just wanted to be sure.

And for the love of all that is holy. Bring back up batteries to your back up batteries. Flash batteries die so quickly when you’re firing 100 times in 1 minute.

3. Your settings have to be just right

Alright, so really- How do I take photos at The Festival of Lights? I want settings & details for my camera!

My settings when we first arrived stayed around ISO 200, f/1.8 & 1/200 with a 35mm 1.8, but by the end of the night I jumped down (after much much thought and practice to get these images just right) to ISO 1250, F/1.8 & 1/200. I couldn’t lower my shutter speed anymore than this to get the best portraits because if I did I would be risking my images not being sharp or being extremely blurry. I couldn’t push more than 1/200 either because I was using flash, and anything above 1/200 doesn’t align with your flash. So i relied heavily on my ISO to get me through this challenging moment!

What happens…. when your camera won’t focus because your ISO is too high? Is that even a thing? Even if it’s not popular, becareful! That’s exactly what happened to me, and my camera stopped firing! My heart DROPPED. Don’t worry- the settings that I gave you above are the ones to STICK to, and I had absolute no issues with them. The settings where I did have those issues?

ISO 2000, f/1.8, and 1/200- I was halfway through and all of a sudden.


No images, no flash, no nothing- and AJ was ABOUT TO PROPOSE.

Even though I was freaking out on the inside, I kept my composure & knew to lower my ISO. If I had to bump up the exposure and deal with the “noise” then that is 100 times better than not having the picture at all. Guess what though- it turned out perfectly!

This is one of the many differences between having a professional photographer vs. having your cousin’s friend who has a nice camera (I was that cousin’s friend at one point- we all are!) Hiccups & bumps happen! It’s how we deal with them that truly matters.

I hope that this helps you handle those bumps in the road, because every little bit of knowledge that we have is key to the success of our client’s photo shoot!

4. You’re not the only people at the festival

I can’t tell you how many people walked in front of my shot, I think bumped into about 3 families through out the day, and we were photobombed by someone’s grandma. My biggest bump in the road here was another couple that were waiting to use the lantern right after Jade & AJ. They had no idea what was going on and honestly I don’t know that they cared. I don’t blame them though, they went for their own romantic evening and I’m sure that we were an inconvenience to them.

They asked us if they could use the lantern and I couldn’t get any words out before they walked right in front of my camera the VERY SECOND that AJ got down on one knee. You can imagine me freaking out because they weren’t running past me, they were just taking their time. It wasn’t their fault, again- they honestly had no idea what was going on.

How did I handle it?

“Oh god- you gotta move!” And I basically hurried them along with an attitude. I wasn’t ready for that, and they weren’t either. After the moment had passed and Jade said yes, we captured everything that happened & I had a moment to breathe I walked over to the couple and expressed my sincerest apologizes for acting like an animal. It may not have been enough, but at least it was something and I could sleep that night.


These main issues are what I can imagine would scare the heck out of every photographer- new or seasoned!

Can’t find your couple? Crap.

Flash doesn’t work? Crap.

Setting aren’t right? Crap.

Someone walks in front of THE shot? CRAP.

Let these mistakes that I have learned help you when you are creating something beautiful for your couples. I wish that I had this cheat sheet when I was prepping, but now YOU do! Helping & educating others is such a blessing in this life, and I’m thrilled that I can share this information with you.

Looking for other informational content? Check out a few of my favorite blog posts for photographers!

The Princess Bride Styled Shoot- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Help Your Couples Decide What To Do With Their Wedding Photos & How To Put More Money In Your Pocket!

Longwood Gardens Surprise Proposal- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If this answered your question, “How do I take photos at The Festival of Lights?” I want to hear from you! Feel free to reach out, comment below, or share this to help others not make these same mistakes!

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