Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Photography Tips

We are still very much in the midst of moving.  A lot of unpacking has been done and a lot more still needs to happen.

But the holidays are upon us and we wanted to get the Christmas tree up so the kids could enjoy it.  That gave me a chance to get out the camera and practice some Christmas light pics.

I'm going to spend more time later on getting the girls dressed up and taking some keepsake shots, but tonight I was just trying to figure out what settings to use.  I took a deep breath and switched the DSLR to manual mode.   The overhead lights in the room were off, but the lights in the next room were on.  A few key points:
  • I set the white balance on tungsten 
  • I used a tripod (well, a stack of books, whatever), the shutter speed has to be slow, so the camera has to be stable 
  • My ISO was set to 400, but I'm thinking I should have made it higher.  A higher ISO makes a grainier picture, but also allows you to increase the shutter speed in lower light settings.  
  • Which leads into shutter speed.  I used 1/5 second.  That's pretty slow and obviously toddlers aren't known for sitting still.  Next time I'll try higher ISO and faster shutter to see if I can get the same lighting, but stop her motion better. 
  • My aperture was set at f/4, which is pretty open and helps let in the light. 
  • I used partial metering mode so the exposure was based on her face, not the bright lights at the edge of the frame.
I tried to get pictures of Sedona, which was pretty much a complete failure because she bounces around like a jack russel terrier on speed.   Sierra sat very still for me though.

The first picture, I tried turning up the shutter speed to 1/8 second.  That didn't work so well
 Moving back to 1/5 second did away with the scarier shadows, but I'm still not happy with the overall composition, too much floor included at the bottom of the frame. The shadows are still too harsh on her face too.  I think I'm going to try adding just a little bit of light above her....more Christmas lights (outside the frame of the shot), maybe.  A little editing after the fact would probably fix both problems, but I'm trying to learn how to get better straight out of the camera pictures.

Then, of course, I had to play around with the shaped bokeh trick.  It took me an unreasonable amount of time to understand how to do this, so I was thrilled when I finally got it work.  I put up a shaped bokeh for dummies tutorial last year after I put all the pieces together. 
 While we're here, I also have pictures of the fused glass ornaments the girls made at girl scouts a couple weeks ago.  They had a lot of fun and the ornaments came out really cute, though they're much more difficult to photograph than you'd think!  The top one is Sedona's and the bottom one is Sierra's.

Do you have any holiday photography tips to share? What do I need to learn about and try out before Christmas passes us by?

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