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Thread: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

  1. #1

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    Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Hello,

    This is my first thread here, i tried to click some pictures yesterday of some Christmas trees outdoors during the night time, but i didn't get the right light exposure that i was looking for.

    So can please some share their experiences on what settings should i be using to capture lights while i am outdoors during night time? I have a Canon T4i with 18-55mm and 55-250mm lenses.

    Thank you,

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Sachin

    Have a look at this thread from Chris. The Exif data shows he shot this at 1/30@f2.5. ISO1600.

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    re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Hi Sachin,

    What sort of exposure are you getting? Are you using a tripod or setting the camera on a stable surface? If not, I'd start there. Outdoor night pictures typically take a long shutter speed and it's near impossible to keep your hands steady for that long. I'd also recommend using a small aperture (high f-number) like f11 or higher to get a nice starburst effect from the lights (see image below, it's not outdoors but was low light) and as long as your using a tripod or stable surface then keep the ISO low to minimize noise.

    Hope that helps,
    Patrick

    Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

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    re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Wouldn't the time of day play a role as well?
    I'll have an occasion to do something similar, and planned on being on the spot a bit before sunset, to have some ambient light (if they'll be nice enough to switch on the lights early enough...). That would allow the background to be visible as well, and not just the lights.

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    re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Seems to me we are back to a different application of the exposure triangle, and you have to decide on the result you are after. If you want the lights as such you need to remember they are a light source and will need little exposure, whereas the surrounds will be dark and need more exposure, probably a lot more. If it is indoors I would and have found the exposure which gave me detail in the light source, bulbs on tree, and then related that to my flash. The strength of the flash illuminating the general area is controlled by the aperture and using that aperture the shutter speed is picked to give the surround exposure.
    Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors My tree was in a window so I don't have a 'background' ... also the lights are not all that bright being in a plastic tube but I don't think that changes the general approach to exposure.

    Outdoors it is unlikely that the lights can be captured at the same time as the surrounds ...a subject lit by a light source in the frame normally cannot be photographed, the only exception to this is the shots of a lit candle and surround that I have seen.

    People usually accept fuzzy blown lights so they can get detail in the surrounds, if the lights are small this is probably acceptable. Alternatively bracketing the subject and merging the frames using HDR maybe the answer.

    Remco's suggestion is another approach which has been done to good effect numerous times, effectively you are reducing the dianamic range to what can be handled in a single shot ... it used to be done also by double exposure with film .. a sort of bracketing.One exposure at dusk for ground detail and a second exposure when the lights come on.
    Last edited by jcuknz; 21st December 2012 at 10:17 AM.

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    re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    I didnt try to use a tripod before, but ill pick up all the suggestions given to me here and i will try to take another picture today...

    Thank you for all the help !!!

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    re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    Seems to me we are back to a different application of the exposure triangle, and you have to decide on the result you are after. If you want the lights as such you need to remember they are a light source and will need little exposure, whereas the surrounds will be dark and need more exposure, probably a lot more.
    ISTM that the real thing that this topic cries out for is a discussion of the zone system. A basic intro to that topic can be found here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...e_system.shtml The trick is that you probably don't want your exposure to be centered around zone 5 in most Christmas lights shots at night. FWIW

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    Re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    This is what i had got without a tripod..... at F4.5 and shutter 1/60 , ISO 100

    Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

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    Re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    It looks like there's just about no ambient light around the tree so it will be hard to get detail of the tree without blowing out those white ball lights. You can try similar settings to the ones you used but with a longer shutter speed or try what Remco suggested and go around sunset.
    If you try again at night I would put the camera in Aperture Priority and choose your desired Aperture (you can keep with F4.5 if you like) and then adjust the EV (in this case a positive value would help) until you get the exposure you're looking for. However, if you increase EV you might need to increase your ISO to give you an acceptable shutter speed if you're not using a tripod.

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    Re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    I like to 'play' in editing and on openning the curves tool I discovered that the 'histogram' or whatever it is was low and even across the graph so I moved the top point across left from 100% to 25% and got the left hand result which seems more pleasing and likely closer to how it would have looked on the night?
    Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors
    Original on right.[ after downloading and re-posting ]

  11. #11

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    Re: Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors

    Quote Originally Posted by jcuknz View Post
    I like to 'play' in editing and on openning the curves tool I discovered that the 'histogram' or whatever it is was low and even across the graph so I moved the top point across left from 100% to 25% and got the left hand result which seems more pleasing and likely closer to how it would have looked on the night?
    Settings to capture christmas lights outdoors
    Original on right.[ after downloading and re-posting ]
    I like that, so was this editing done in photoshop or some other tool?

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