Photography how to: create star bursts

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    Oooooh, bright shiny lights. I love how the tree is glowing and the lights are bursting, don’t you? I’m going to talk you through how you can take a picture of your family’s tree (if you have one). You will need a basic understanding of photography, you’ll need to understand shutter speed, but that’s not super hard 😀
    You’ll need:
  • tripod or something sturdy to set your camera on
  • camera with timer and manual settings
  • pretty lights to photograph (I have a crap load of lights on my tree and still want MORE! ahaha)
  • an dark night… ooh

You might want:

        • a remote shutter release

So, first things first- turn off all the lights. Light is the number 1, most important thing you need when taking pictures, and in this case, you need to eliminate all outside light because you want the only light source to be your tree.

You’re going to set your shutter speed to a really, slow, really long which is why you need something sturdy to set your camera on. Any tiny movement will RUIN THE SHOT FOREVER! Well, ok, it’ll just ruin that one shot but you’ll have to reshoot and if you’re a perfectionist, that’ll drive you crazy. My shutter speed on the above was 13 seconds– the shutter was left open for 13 full seconds allowing all the twinkly light to enter. I had my ISO turned as low as I could, which is 100. Your ISO setting tells your camera how much available light there is- a low number means there’s lots of light and the camera doesn’t need to compensate for that. A high number means there’s very little light. Logically, you’d want to set your ISO to a higher number since there is very little light- BUT in this case we are going to make up for the low light with a slooooooooow shutter speed.

I closed down my aperture to F-11; there’s a long explanation about the blades in your lens and angles, so you can read up on the specifics and I encourage you to but I’m not going to get into it all. You’re going to want to be stopped down to at least F-11, the further down you’re closed the more dramatic your burst will be.

Next, you’re going to frame up your shot. Select your focus point, you can pretty much just point it toward the middle and go at it. Your lens will be stopped down so almost everything will be in focus. Remember, you need something sturdy to hold your camera or you’re going to get motion shake. Use a tripod, or, rig up something sturdy to angle your camera correctly. If your camera has a timer setting USE IT. If your camera has a remote setting, invest in a remote.  I use the word “invest” loosely–I have this little guy . $7 folks. Worth it if you have a Nikon DSLR (there are millions for Canon and other bodies as well). Go ahead now and take your first shot. How’d it look? Good? No good? Post your picture to my Facbook page wendy b photos. If you don’t like what you got, shoot again!

You can use the settings I have listed as a starting point, but if your photo isn’t “right” make adjustments and try again. Every situation is different, you may have more or fewer lights on your tree, you might have more ambient light, make the adjustments for YOUR specific situation. And, feel free to ask for help 😀

 

f-11 13″SS 100 Iso

How to: create that twinkle light backdrop

So, a little while ago, I told you not to wrap your kid in holiday lights but to instead try something like this set-up, which is good advice and you should totally take it. m-twinkle-lights-1wm  But… maybe you don’t know *how* to do such a thing! No worries, I can help you get started. You are going to need to put your camera in manual mode, or at least *AV*/ *A* aperture priority and you’ll need a basic understanding of your camera’s manual features. If these words are Greek to you, maybe call in the pros and ask about a mini session 😉 Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to do.

What you’re going to need:

  • a bunch of Christmas lights on a WHITE WIRE
  • an SLR camera and lens — I used a Nikon D7000 and Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens but entry level bodies and lenses will work just fine with a little tinkering
  • a solid color background
  • something to hang your lights on

You may want:

  • a white sheer curtain
  • a couple boxes of cheap-o laminate floor
  • speedlight– do NOT use your on-camera flash. It only points forward and will ruin EVERYTHING! ::dramaz::

The first thing you’ll want is something to string lights on. I have a backdrop stand, and used an ivory piece of vinyl backdrop from The Backdrop Shop, but you don’t need a “real” drop; if you have a solid, light color wall in a room that gets LOTS of sun light you could tape lights to your wall. You can use a full size sheet (a twin size white sheet will work if you have only one person in the picture).

This is a pull back of my set up, shot with a wide angle lens. I have a 6×6 backdrop, about 12 pieces floating laminate floor and 2 strings of 150 white lights. If you want to load up your lights, you can buy more, but I think this is plenty.  After you hang your lights, wash your hands!

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(also, sweet vintage sled, right?) Shooting in a purple room poses challenges, so I would suggest trying to shoot in a light, neutral colored space. Sooner or later, that purple room will be painted (again, for the 3rd time) a neutral shade as I start offering more sessions in my home space.

You’ll need to set your lens to it’s widest aperture. I know my lens isn’t its sharpest wide open, so I keep it around to 1.8 or 2. You’ll also want your child out as far away from your lights as you can get while still being able to frame the shot well. Depth of field gives us that blurry background with those glowing orbs of light and works when you are closer to your subject than your subject is to whatever is behind it.

My settings were f 1.8, SS 1/250, ISO 160 with my white balance set to flash since I had to use my speedlight. I  used my speedlight because I was taking a picture in the early evening when there isn’t a ton of natural light available. I bounced the speedlight on a 45o angle behind me.  I could have adjusted my settings; slowed my shutter speed, ratcheted up my ISO or opened all the way to 1.4 buuuut I have a speedlight and truly, there was very little natural light.

Once you have your settings… set, it’s time to start! You may have to change your settings around here and there. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, adjust your settings. It’s best to take test shots with something like a stuffed animal- something that won’t get peeved at you for taking time to adjust.  Once you have the shot you like, add in your model! I had my daughter sit on the sled to have her up a little higher and a touch farther away from the backdrop. Remember you want to be closer to your kid than your kid is to the lights, but having your lens as open as possible helps a LOT if you don’t have much space.

I took a few practice shots and really didn’t like the look of the lights- they glow pretty yellow (which yea, I could have set a custom white balance but eh) so I put a white, sheer curtain panel over them. It softens the color of the bulbs and creates a sort of faux- bokeh. You can see in the pull-back picture that the lights are still pretty sharp and that is for sure NOT what I wanted.  Draping the sheer made it so soft and perfect.

DSC_0086If I had moved my daughter out more the lights would be even larger orbs. I could also use my 35mm lens so I can be zoomed out some and able to get closer to my kids! All kinds of adjustments can be made. I’ll keep shooting and if you’re not getting what you want, keep trying! It’s worth it, promise.

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