capturing christmas light

capturing christmas lights A lovely reader recently asked for some tips on taking some pictures for an event where the Christmas lights were being turned on. Night time photography can be the hardest, especially if you prefer the use of natural light. So these are just a few things that I keep in mind.

Ideally you don’t actually want to be shooting pictures of lights once it is completely dark. As it is just becoming dusk there will be more light so you might still be able to ‘free hand’ it plus you will get some more interesting details in the sky. That said I can’t imagine a company will be turning on Christmas lights when it is just dusk and if you live a bit too far north it is dark before you leave work anyway.

christmas-streets-mycreative christmas-tree-piazza-unita-trieste-mycreative Settings: all ISO 400, 1/80s, aperture at 2.8, 3.5 and 4 respectively

Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW will allow you a little bit of grace in your pictures as it holds a lot more information and so if your shot is a bit underexposed you can lighten up the picture. Some cameras have an option to see where it is 100% black or white. Use that and try not to go 100% of either in too much of the photo. I have photoshop but if your camera allows you to shoot in RAW it should hopefully come with some software which you can edit it in. I’ve never used GIMP but this video explains how to use an accompanying programme to edit RAW photos.

Use a tripod

The nice thing about Christmas lights is they don’t move – which means you don’t have to move! If you have access to a tripod this is the best way to go to get sharp photos. You will also need to put your camera onto timer or have a shutter release so you don’t shake the tripod when taking the picture. Set your ISO to 100 (or as low as it will go), set your aperture (this is an artistic decision but if you want it basically all to be in focus I would say 8 and up) and then change your shutter speed until you get the correct exposure. Note that for the examples in this post I have not used a tripod so it is still possible.

If you don’t have the option of a tripod push your ISO up as high as you are happy with. This requires a little bit of playing around – the super expensive brand new cameras can go really high but more entry level cameras might only look good up to 1600 ISO. You will also probably have to open your aperture wide up (f1.4 – 2.8 is great if you have it). Try and keep your shutter above 1/60s but if you have to drop below that keep your position steady – stand with legs shoulder width apart, hand holding under the lens to keep it steady. Lean against a wall if you can.  The great thing about Christmas lights is that blur works really well!

christmas-street-lights-focus-mycreative christmas-street-lights-bokeh-mycreative Settings: all ISO 400, 1/80s, f3.5, f3.5

Shot variety

Variety is the spice of life and it also helps to tell the whole story of an event. Don’t be limited in just shooting the full scene. Move in close and get some detail shots too. Get some ones with lovely bokeh blur (just move to manual focus and get the lights out of focus).

christmas-lights-mycreative Settings: ISO 400, 1/80s, f2.8

It’s not just about the lights

If you are also shooting for an event it is important to remember that it is not just about the lights themselves but the people ‘interacting’ with the light. The same applies if you are going out with friends or family to see some lights. Use available light, boost your ISO up to a high number. Set your shutter speed to a ‘hand held’ level (1/60 or above) and then set aperture to however low it needs to get to get properly exposed photos.

christmas-market-gingerbread-mycreative christmas-market-mycreative Settings: both ISO 640, 1/80, f2.8

This photo below is far from technically perfect but it gives an idea of how people where interacting with, in this case, the band that were playing. I wouldn’t blow this photo up to an A3 print but works well on the web and a Facebook page and might even pass as a small print in a photo album. Making photos black and white can also be a useful artistic decision…

shooting in the dark - crowd pictureSettings: ISO 5000, 1/60, f1.4

Learn from others

Head over to flickr to see what others got up to. The nice thing about flickr is that it more often than not tells you what the camera settings where for an image. It is a great way to learn about settings. You can also see some of my other ‘dark time’ photos

I hope this is helpful to those taking some Christmas photos. Let me know if you have any questions and share a link to your Christmas pictures for some inspiration too!

better photography tip | visit new places

venice3 venice2 venice1 You’ve heard of a photographer’s eye. Some people are perhaps lucky enough to be ‘born’ with the ability to spot a great photograph but I think it is definitely something that you can improve with practice.  Whereas your average tourist might take a picture of the same famous building in the same old way a great photographer sees something happening that the tourist doesn’t.  So how do you stop being a ‘tourist photographer’? Confusingly, by been a tourist!

Take the time to look at the world around you. Pay attention. Start to see the world in more detail and as separate elements rather than a whole scene.  You don’t have to head to far off places to be a tourist either. Start by visiting a place in your own town that you haven’t visited before. When everything is new you pay more attention to what is around you. Once you have practiced that for a while visit an often photographed landmark in your town and try and take a photo that isn’t the “same old”.

I am so excited to be heading to Italy to photograph a world I haven’t lived with. I feel that this is a whole new step in my photography journey (totally aside from being fricken amazing) and I just can’t wait to photograph it!

Now talking about being a tourist …

If you are interested in visiting new places too I am thinking of holding a super duper special Eat and Snap which would involve a day trip to Paris!  I would need to get a small group of people together who are willing to go. I am tentatively looking at Saturday 12 October or Monday 21 October. If you can make either of these dates, If you can make Saturday 19 October are willing to pay for the Eurostar yourself, food in Paris and a extended Eat and Snap package (£50) where you will get advice and assistance from me for a day leave a comment, email or tweet me you can book here.  I think it could be awesomely fun!

beermat characters gallery exhibition

inkygoodness exhibition opening night Just a quick one for the Londoners out there.  On Tuesday evening I took event photos for the Inkygoodness Beermat Characters Illustration Show.  I got there a bit early and had a chance to look around.  I would really suggest that if you are a fan of illustration to head down as there are over 80 artists who contributed to the show and these mini pieces of original art are all available for sale at very reasonable prices.

The Poopdeck pirate prints are also on show and available for purchase.

I love been involved in creative projects supporting such a wide range of artists.  There is definitely a piece there that you will love.


bloggers by the sea

bbts_michelleyoung_6133 bbts_michelleyoung_6141 bbts_michelleyoung_6152 bbts michelleyoung 1 bbts_michelleyoung_6225 bbts_michelleyoung_6334 bbts_michelleyoung_6170 bbts_michelleyoung_6148 bbts_michelleyoung_6194 Over the weekend a troupe of bloggers* went down to a lovely little town by the sea (Leigh-on-Sea) to have a good ol’ blogger get together.  And nothing says blogger get together like stripey straws, drinking out of jam jars and flowers.

We all settled down in Anna’s lovely house (complete with vintage loveliness, the essential blogger magazine selection and an enviable typewriter collection) where she was the perfect hostess.  She made very generous gift bags, fed us yummy food and organised a cornucopia of flowers for us to play with. Charlotte demonstrated some crown making skills but sadly my idea of a crown crown with flowers didn’t really work, so I stole Elena‘s crown, and later had a whole pile on my head.  Everyone else’s crowns were magnificent celebrations of spring and it was though a bevy of ladies had stepped out of la primavera.  Okay, maybe not quite but I like to think so.

The flowers were kindly provided by the Great British Florist which is a company I can really get behind. They only sell flowers grown in Britain, which is much more environmentally friendly, plus they actually smelled.  If you are organising an event and want to arrange your own flowers they provide a selection in a box for you to do it yourself.

p.s. I am in love with the colours in that last photo!

p.p.s. more blogger photos when I have got some preapproval.

* troupe of bloggers included Hannah and Katie from Shoestring Splendour, Jo from The Only Place, Charlotte from Lotts and Lots,  Jo from Hey Jo Design, Elena from Randomly Happy, Natalie from Scrap Adventure and of course Anna (whose house we took over) from Skin Blister Blog.

Thanks to all these ladies for making a very enjoyable Sunday and to Anna’s sister Harriet for picking us up from the station.