fun with christmas lights … [workshop wednesday]

This week’s workshop wednesday is brought to you by our Christmas tree.

Michelle talked herself into setting it up yesterday. Cleverly, she Josiah-proofed the decorations (they start halfway up the tree). Just as cleverly, Josiah noticed vulnerabilities in our new lounge room layout, and promptly found no less than three ways to climb onto the top of our coffee table. Impressive!

Anyway, in response to a question on our Facebook page, here are some tips on getting creative with photos of Christmas lights this December.

For starters, here’s our Christmas tree (shot on my Olympus E-P1):

101201_0005.jpg - one fine day photography - newcastle photographer

There’s nothing particularly special about this photo, but I’m hoping it demonstrates that taking out-of-focus photos of light sources can be a lot of fun! You don’t need a fancy camera, either.

There are a few tricks to bear in mind:

  • To get circles of light, use your camera’s manual controls and set your lens to its widest aperture (the smallest aperture/f-stop number available). Smaller apertures (bigger numbers) will give you polygons of light.
  • For the most dramatic effects, use a lens with a wide aperture (e.g. a 50mm f/1.8, if you own one), or the longest optical zoom your camera offers.
  • If you have a foreground subject you’d like to keep in focus, put as much distance as possible between your subject and the lights, and as little distance as possible between you and your subject. It’s all about getting maximum blur out of the lights. Also, you might want to try using flash to illuminate your foreground subject.
  • If you don’t have a foreground subject, you’ll need to use manual focus to get maximum blur. Focus as close to the camera as possible. If your camera doesn’t allow manual focus, hold your hand in front of the lens and press the button halfway until your hand is in focus. Then remove your hand and push the button the rest of the way.
  • Experiment with focussing at different distances from the camera. The circles of light will change size.
  • For best results, shoot at night and use a tripod 😉

Have fun!