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Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

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  #1  
Old 12-04-2007, 08:44 PM
CJ Swartz's Avatar
CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

I practised photographing Christmas lights tonight -- and need to go out again to make some improvements, but I'm happy with what I've learned to do so far also.

I'd read that we should arrive at the location no later than sundown, and start taking shots until the ambient light from the sky begins to match the light from the Christmas lights.

White balance should be set to Tungsten (which I forgot to do for the first few shots) - this helps in two ways - the lights are tungsten (so their color will show more realistically with the Tungsten WB) and the sky will show bluer, which adds a pleasant contrasting background. Try to include the sky in the photo so that you can benefit from this.

The shutter speeds will be low, so we need to use a tripod or another stable surface. I think the self-timer would be another good idea to lessen the chance of vibration when releasing the shutter. I didn't use the timer because I discovered that I didn't know how to set it on my new camera

I found the lights were over-exposed in my practice images. I couldn't see that well enough until I got them up on the monitor, so I'll need to adjust my exposure next time to keep them from blowing out.

Here's the practice shots from tonight (they're my neighbors, mine aren't up yet and don't look good enough to photograph):

Have you taken any photos of Christmas lights - this year or in years past? Any tips to help the rest of us?
Attached Images
File Type: jpg ChristmasLights-1.jpg (192.0 KB, 66 views)
File Type: jpg ChristmasLights-2.jpg (189.7 KB, 52 views)
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Old 12-05-2007, 05:47 AM
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Re: Photographing Christmas Lights - show yours

Great tips CJ and well timed I had wondered if it was possible to get a decent shot of some xmas lights,
In fact i was that excited i immediately looked to see if i had a tungsten setting on my camera ! ! I haven't found it yet (will have to get the book and see ) but what i did find was that i can take in sepia, black and white and vivid ? And after 18 months of owning this camera i didn't know this

Palms
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Old 12-05-2007, 06:08 AM
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Gary Richardson Gary Richardson is offline
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Re: Photographing Christmas Lights - show yours

I don't put up lights myself (bah Humbug ), however my neighbour gets notices from the Royal Astronomical Society about light polution around this time of year, so if I can find my welding mask (to avoid early blindness) I'll try and get some shots of this years eyesore.
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Old 12-05-2007, 10:15 AM
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yvonne yvonne is offline
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Re: Photographing Christmas Lights - show yours

Do you mind if I ask what shutter speed and aperature you had your camera set at? My first time trying to do christmas lights and am looking for all the information I can get. Also did you shoot in raw?
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Old 12-05-2007, 01:13 PM
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CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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Re: Photographing Christmas Lights - show yours

Quote:
Originally Posted by yvonne View Post
Do you mind if I ask what shutter speed and aperature you had your camera set at? My first time trying to do christmas lights and am looking for all the information I can get. Also did you shoot in raw?
No, I don't mind -- that's what we're all here for -- to share experiences and ideas.

I was shooting in Program mode, and my camera chose ISO 1600, shutter speed of about 1/6 to 1/10 of a second, and aperture of f3.8 on one and f4.5 on the other. I shot both jpg and raw, but I didn't take the time to vary my exposures (the D40 does NOT have bracketing, and that's one more thing that I need to remember to do tonight -- in fact, I can (hopefully remember) shoot different exposures (expose for shadows and then expose for hilights) and try some HDR. I am going to try to shoot at a lower ISO and try different shutter speed/aperture combinations.

I would start out shooting with your camera in Programmed auto mode if it has that selection. If you can change your white balance from auto, choose tungsten (or it might say incandescent) - that makes a big difference with the colors. The most important factor is shooting during twilight - after sundown and before total darkness -- this helps us get photos that are not only "bright lights surrounded by black" which is what we usually get when we shoot lights at night.

I'm going to try a smaller aperture to allow more of the image to be in focus, and this will lengthen my shutter speed so I found out how to set my self-timer so as to reduce any camera shake. Let's see what we all come up with and share tips and photos.
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Old 12-05-2007, 03:24 PM
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yvonne yvonne is offline
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Re: Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

Thank you so much for your answer.
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Old 12-05-2007, 04:01 PM
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CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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Re: Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

Here's a short video that explains much of what we've been talking about and adds some nice suggestions about adding more of the scene around the home to the image.

http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Pho...-Lights-698314
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Old 12-05-2007, 07:56 PM
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Re: Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

Went out to the same houses tonight so that I could compare images better (although lighting and other factors may vary). One house had the dog groomer's van in front of it so I took a different angle and decided to concentrate more on the second house. Then a third house turned on their lights and I worked on it for a few shots. I varied the exposure compensation somewhat and tried a few that I could practice tone-mapping (in the HDR forum) -- I need to read up on that before I try anything there.

I set the self-timer and tried to improve focus. (The first image has some motion blur from the propeller of Santa's plane.) I've got to go to a meeting now, but I'll edit this later with shooting data.

I downloaded the trial version of Artizen, a HDR/tone-mapping program, and added three different exposures of the third house together. These are two versions of numerous possibilities, and I don't know how to use the software yet. I'm just adding these to give an "idea" of what else is possible. I'll add a post or thread in the HDR/Tone-mapping forum when I get a better handle on what I'm doing with the tone-mapping.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DSC_0038-2ndDayH2.jpg (193.3 KB, 25 views)
File Type: jpg HolidayLites-Day2House3.jpg (194.3 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg Christmas-ArtizenHDR1.jpg (169.7 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg Christmas-Try2.jpg (197.9 KB, 28 views)

Last edited by CJ Swartz; 12-08-2007 at 12:03 AM. Reason: added HDR versions
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Old 12-08-2007, 02:03 AM
pixelzombie pixelzombie is offline
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Re: Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

i took this a shot a year ago just after a fresh snow, unfortunately it was around 2 am so most of the neighbors lights were turned off..i think i still have some film left so maybe i can get out somewhat earlier to get some shots with more lights in them...
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File Type: jpg snow.jpg (91.8 KB, 37 views)
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Old 09-08-2008, 01:26 PM
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Re: Photographing Holiday Lights - show yours

No i havent found any xmas lights set up early this year ! ! !
but i was wondering would it be the same settings/method etc for taking photographs of lights at night time ( like lit buildings, landscapes, that sort of thing )


Palms
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