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The fun of the festive season doesn’t begin and end on Christmas Day. In fact, the preparation for 25 December is almost as exciting as the day itself.

The popularity of Christmas markets, where stalls sell stocking fillers and offer delicious mulled drinks, has blossomed in recent years, and one of the world’s best markets can be found in the Belgian city of Bruges. Set against the gothic architecture and winsome canals, the markets sparkle with a warm, charming glow.

A market stall in Bruges

It’s an ideal place and time to take some incredible photography with your Xperia XZ3, but really any Christmas market will do as long as it’s sufficiently festive!

Thanks to its amazing camera and excellent low light capabilities, the XZ3 makes taking swoon-worthy Instagram snaps easy, but to help you get a little bit of added magic into your shots, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help.

Keep skin tones looking natural
Shooting with artificial lighting can present some challenges, but if there are people in your photo, keep the skin tones looking natural. The eye will naturally accept all the other lighting as being plausible if you do. Adjust your exposure and white balance to get any people in the shot looking as close to reality as possible, and then feel free to go wild with colours and saturation.

To adjust the white balance on the XZ3, open the camera and tap Mode. You can then select Manual to bring up the screen seen in this screenshot. Tap WB (seen below halfway down the screen on the far right) to select a pre-defined light condition (for example, cloudy). Have a play around by selecting the Auto button (bottom row, far left). Close the settings menu and the setting will be saved.

A screenshot showing how to alter the white balance on the XZ3

Winter is the best time to take outdoor photography
On a clear day you have near-perfect light all day long as the sun is low in the sky. This gives you nice soft shadows and a warm colour of light with a golden hour-esque feel.

There are ways of shooting well when it’s not sunny
A lower, weaker sun does mean that you might struggle to get enough light to make a good exposure. Thankfully, the XZ3’s wide range of high-tech camera features means you can produce high quality images with good dynamic range and low noise even at high ISO settings.

Bruges bathed in blue light

To alter the ISO settings yourself, open your camera, tap Mode on the bottom left of the screen and select Manual. Now tap ISO (halfway down the screen in the centre). This brings up the screen below. Slide the bar between 50 and 12800 to get the perfect ISO for your desired shot. Generally, a high ISO lets you shoot at faster shutter speeds or in darker conditions, whereas a lower ISO is great for brighter colour and capture detail in both highlights and shadows.

A screenshot showing how to alter ISO on the XZ3

Manually adjust the exposure
In low light conditions dotted with bright fairy light decorations, the chances are that you will have a lot of variation between the darkest part of your image and the brightest. Play around with manually adjusting the exposure in order to get the best compromise. The shot below was taken with an aperture of f2 to let in as much light as possible.

A scene from Bruges, taken with the Xperia XZ3

To manually adjust the exposure, tap mode and then tap the Manual icon. Tap EV – which stands for Exposure Value – to bring up the screen below. For this shot, we moved the slider all the way to the right, making the image as bright as possible.

Exposure Value on the XZ3 camera

Use the light to your advantage
Be careful with bright light sources in dark, high-contrast settings – you don’t want them to overpower your subject and your image. It’s really a case of all or nothing with a large bright light in your picture. Make it the focus of your photo and really showcase it or recompose your shot to crop it out – otherwise it will be distracting and cause you exposure issues. If you need to, use the camera’s manual function to increase and decrease exposure.

A festive doorway

Why not have a go at taking some Christmas market pictures yourself? Show us the results using the hashtag #TakenWithXperia.