Thursday, December 24, 2009

Photographing Holiday Lights

Here is an article written by a great photography resource, Elliot Stern from Blue Ridge Workshops. So tonight, bundle up, and take advantage of the beautiful holiday light displays your friends and neighbors have errected. Happy Holidays!

by Elliot Stern, Blue Ridge Workshops

Holiday lights and decorations always provide us with wonderful seasonal subjects to photograph, but how to photograph them can be a challenge for a lot of people so I hope this short list of things to do will help those who need a push in the right direction.

A tripod is a must. That is all I am going to say about tripods.

My recommendation is a camera that allows adjustments of shutter speeds and apertures, with shutter speed being most important. This can be a Dslr, Hdslr, or a Bridge type camera that allows these adjustments. There are some point and shoots that give you control in this area too.

The best time of day for shooting lights and displays is while there is still a little bit of daylight left. Shooting in total darkness is not at all recommended. Just before sunset is a good idea, but remember that the lighting will change very quickly. Shooting at this time of day allows you to silhouette the background, giving an identifiable background.

For available light photography (no flash) a good starting point is probably around about ½ second, lens wide opened and then work from that speed to achieve the effect you like. Probably the best general setting for iso is your cameras base iso 100,200 in most cameras, but as good as your cameras are at higher iso’s I would not stretch to far beyond this limit. Noise can still be an issue in very dark or close to dark situations no matter how well the spec numbers appear in the literature. There is also a provision in some cameras which is high iso long exposure noise reduction. This allows you to shoot long exposures at high iso and get rid of noise issues to some degree, but it takes a long time in camera to process. It is not good if lights and decorations are blowing in the wind. Another method which is available in a lot of cameras today is the ability to set in the menus, a dynamic range increase providing detail in highlights and shadows. In Nikon it is called D-Lighting, in Olympus it is called Graduation, and in Canon it is Highlight Tone Priority and Automatic Lighting Optimizer.

If you have an adjustable type of camera then it is more than likely that you have a provision for controlling the flash on your camera, or with an add on flash called SLOW SYNCH. In this mode the camera is permitted to go to very slow shutter speeds to record the ambient light in the background. The flash fires to record the foreground and then the shutter stays opened long enough to record the background light. It is great for doing portraits or groups in front of the lights and decorations. REMEMBER, SLOW SYNCH MEANS YOU MUST BE USING A TRIPOD.

One more word about flash is if you are in a home setting, and your ceiling is no more than 10' high, you should consider using bounce flash. Even better, use a Gary Fong flash accessory for a nice even soft light. CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON THE GARY FONG ACCESSORIES and CHECK WITH PENN CAMERA WHICH WOULD BE BEST FOR THE EQUIPMENT YOU OWN.