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Old Oct 19, 2006, 3:49 PM   #1
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Hi everyone,

I'm new here and to photography forums in general, so I don't really know what to include, so here goes..

In September I bought a Kodak P880 camera, after being wowed by various sample dusk/night shotson several sites. Two weeks after I bought it and hundreds of great general pictures later, my first big photo op wasan annual autumnal equinox festival to capture the beautiful lanterns and awe-inspiring fire-spinning that takes place a lake nearby. Most of the photos looked great on the LCD, so I was absolutely confident that I had some great shots. I almost expected to get night shots as good as the ones on DC Resource's review of the P880.

I came home, uploaded them, and was truly gutted. Blurry. Wavy. Awful. I've uploaded a few of the pictures from that nightto my site so you can see.

I've only ever had twodigital cameras before the P880 -- both of which were point and shoot, but noisy andterrible (a 1 megapixel and a 3 megapixel).Since the disastrous pictures, I've been reading up like a madwoman on shutter speeds, aperture, etc, and because of this, I've mastered the action shot.However, I am not having much luckfinding thethe right aperture setting for candles and lights and so forth at night, and consequently amterrified of having the same result on Halloween -- my very favourite day of the year.TheP880's manual isn't helpful in the least, really, as it lists what the camera can do, not how to. I don't really find reading EXIF data that helpful, either, when it comes to aperture.

I was hoping some of you kind and adept folks would help me figure out which settings I should use on my camera to be able to capturecarved pumpkins indoor, theoutdoor display in my front yard, as well as neighbourhood festivities.

I don't know if it will be of any help in determining the correct aperture, but I've uploaded pictures of last year's display.Please click on the pictures for a larger view.. and excuse the quality while you're at it.

P.S. - I am going to buy a tripod within the next week.

Thank you so much for any help you can provide.

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Old Oct 19, 2006, 3:55 PM   #2
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Very simple settings!

Low light = slow shutter speeds = tripod or other such solid support for your camera.
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Old Oct 19, 2006, 8:07 PM   #3
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Aperture: As big as possible (lower number, f/2.8 is better than f/5.6)
Iso: As high as you can tolerate (noise gets worse as you turn it up)
Shutter: As long as needed for good exposure!

You'll need a tripod since the shutter speed will be slow. If you use a tripod you can leave the iso set low (ie 100).

The action shots are more complicated, not sure how to advise. I would try using the flash WITH a long exposure, often called slow-sync mode or night portrait.
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Old Oct 19, 2006, 10:39 PM   #4
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The nice thing about a digital camera for what you are trying to do is that you can take practice shots outdoors at home at nightwith candles, pumpkins, Christmas lights, etc. I actually believe that, for the individual Christmas light bulbs, or individual candle flames, the exposure is going to be the same not matter how close or far from them you take the picture. You would still adjust the exposure to make other things like building walls or parade floats or people stand out better.

As far as getting the proper exposure goes, there are three parameters that the camera uses: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Some cameras don't give you total control but most cameras should have a night setting around which you can increase or decrease the exposure value by a couple of notches. Usually you can choose the ISO and the camera then chooses some exposure value (combination of shutter speed and aperture). One exposure value notch change equals doubling or halving the shutter speed leaving the apaerture the same, or opening or closing the aperture by one f-stop using the scale: (more light) 1.0, 1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4.0. 5.6, 8.0, 11.0, 16.0, 22.0, 32.0 (less light) leaving the shutter speed the same. Increasing the ISO while keeping the exposure value the same, you get a brighter picture. The exposure value number like the f-stop number is inverted, a bigger number means less light. Decreasing the exposure value number while leaving the ISO the same gives you a brighter picture.

Your choices may also be limited by the camera itself, for example the widest f-stop together with the highest ISO still requires a slow shutter speed to get enough exposure.

With both film cameras and digital cameras, higher ISO's tend to mean grainier (noisier) pictures.

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