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Old Nov 19, 2009, 7:38 AM   #1
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Default Best setting for taking photos of Holiday Lights

I'm planning on taking lots of shots this holiday season of decorated homes with lights at night. What are the settings I should adjust to take nice shots ?....(with the flash off hopefully).
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Old Nov 19, 2009, 9:23 AM   #2
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I go around my neighborhood on Christmas Eve taking photos of the decorations for my community newsletter. I used my Tamron 17-50/2.8 at f/2.8 with an ISO of 800, and have been able to get reasonable shutter speeds without much motion blur thanks to the IS in the camera body.
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Old Nov 19, 2009, 9:45 AM   #3
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So, it's the shutter speed that needs to be adjusted ?
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Old Nov 19, 2009, 10:28 AM   #4
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Setting a reasonably high ISO and using the largest aperture leaves the camera to select the appropriate shutter speed.

A dSLR with a constant aperture standard zoom (like the Tamron 17-50/2.8) gives a shutter speed that can be handheld, especially with image stabilization. If you're using the kit lens, it'll be dimmer (f/3.5) at the wide end, and get dimmer as you zoom. The shutter speeds will get slower and slower as you do.

If you're using a P&S, your shutter speeds will probably be longer because the aperture will be smaller and the ISO will have to be lower to avoid image noise. You'll probably need a tripod.

What camera do you have? And are the images I attached similar to the ones you want to capture?
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Old Nov 19, 2009, 12:19 PM   #5
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The ones you've taken are the ones I'm planning to take as well. I have a Panasonic fz35 and I've tested it with the garage lights on my driveway and have had similar results and even slightly better then the ones you've posted. But I was using the "scenario" modes and I wanted to make some adjustments to get them even better.
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Old Nov 19, 2009, 1:11 PM   #6
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What shutter speeds were you getting?
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Old Nov 20, 2009, 4:19 PM   #7
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First off, let me say I dont mean anything personally by my following comments. But, Im always amazed when someone asks what camera settings to use when shooting something. Its like asking how long is a piece of string? It all depends. There is only 2 things needed to get a good shot....enough light to create an image and for that image to be in focus. The amount of light is controlled by 3 things....The ISO setting, the size of the aperture, and the length of time the shutter is kept open. The only thing which changes is the setting that is being shot. Thats the variable that no one has control over and to which each photographer must adapt. The examples given by TCav are not good examples of photos taken at night of lights. The problem is the lights are overexposed, the focus is not on and there is a lot of grain. I strongly recommend you shoot any night shots of lights in HDR mode. As to what settings you use, thats up to the conditions in which you find yourself. And no armchair advisor can give valid info without knowing anything about those conditions. Now if Im wrong in this please set me straight, but personally I cant imagine asking someone else how to set my camera so it will give me a good image.
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Old Nov 21, 2009, 8:07 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bynx View Post
... The examples given by TCav are not good examples of photos taken at night of lights. The problem is the lights are overexposed, ...
True. White lights will be overexposed in a frame that contains mainly colored lights and/or darkness. Reducing the exposure settings to properly expose the white lights will cause the colored lights and other details to be underexposed. Pick your poison.

I was shooting with a 6MP KM5D at ISO 800, so there was noise in the originals, and I was shooting with an f/2.8 lens but in the dark, so I did have some significant focus errors in other images that I didn't use, but the ultimate output for the origninal images was 3.5x1.5 inches. Focus problems and image noise would not have been visible.
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  • If you're going to use a filter, make it a good one.

Last edited by TCav; Nov 21, 2009 at 8:16 AM.
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Old Nov 21, 2009, 10:54 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCav View Post
True. White lights will be overexposed in a frame that contains mainly colored lights and/or darkness. Reducing the exposure settings to properly expose the white lights will cause the colored lights and other details to be underexposed. Pick your poison.

I was shooting with a 6MP KM5D at ISO 800, so there was noise in the originals, and I was shooting with an f/2.8 lens but in the dark, so I did have some significant focus errors in other images that I didn't use, but the ultimate output for the origninal images was 3.5x1.5 inches. Focus problems and image noise would not have been visible.
This is my point exactly. When asking for camera settings there are so many variables. In the scene, what do you have and what do you want? My best advice is to take your shot before it gets dark out. use the available light to help cut down on the contrast. Shooting in the dark with only artificial light poses lots of problems -- mainly the different color temperatures, as TCav has pointed out. Both the attached shots arent bad, but the one on the right would be easier to take since there is still some light in the sky which will cut down on hard contrast. And my advice to shoot HDR is the best to date.
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Old Nov 21, 2009, 11:13 AM   #10
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Hi Anthony, click this link for the best advice on shooting holiday lights, really helped me a ton! http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/12...as-lights.html

Bob
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