Sunday, November 26, 2017

How to Photograph Outdoor Christmas Lights

If you have artistically, and painstakingly put up  
outdoor Christmas lights at your house,
you probably want to photograph them.

Here are some tips for showing off your Christmas artwork
in a sparkly photograph!

The biggest trick is to photograph outdoor Christmas lights.
 right after the sun has set so you capture them with enough
 light to show the structure, and the sky is a rich shade of blue.

I took a photo of this Christmas gazebo at 5:15 pm right after the
sun dipped below the horizon.

You can still see the gazebo and surroundings,
but the lights also show up against the pretty blue sky.

Just a few minutes later, it was already darker,
so you need to shoot FAST!

Notice how I have already lost some detail on and around 
the gazebo after just a few minutes.

I photographed this church right after sunset.

I hurried to get several angles before it got too dark to see the church.

Here it is after it got dark.
The scene is still pretty because I had several streetlights
to illuminate the church.

But, if you don't have another light source,
your photo against a black sky will be disappointing like this next one.

Nothing to light the surroundings and the lights look flat.

I snapped this next photo at our town's tree lighting ceremony
soon after the sun set.  

                                                              LOVE that rich blue sky!

They shot off fireworks later in the evening, so I photographed
them separately and added them to these photos.

I made the fireworks into an overlay 
which I sell here in my Etsy Shop if you want to add them to your photos!

About an hour after sunset, I took this photo 
with the sky much darker.

I prefer a lighter, royal blue sky, but if you have
other light to illuminate the scene, it can look beautiful.

Here's another example where a dark sky can look great!

I only wanted the lights to show up because they created the scene.

If it has gotten too dark,
look for what can illuminate your photo subject.

In this case, it was lots of streetlights.

Now for one of my favorite tricks for shooting Christmas...
or any lights at night:

Turn all the lights into stars!

To do this:

Shoot on tripod
Aperture Priority
Use the smallest aperture on your lens.  I use f.22
Get a focus, then switch to manual on your lens
ISO 100.
This will create a very long shutter which is fine since you're on tripod.
(This will not work if you have things moving in your photo like people.)

Notice how each light in your photo is turned into a star!
In this photo, you can really see the stars in the tree over the house.

If you zoom in closer, you can see that
all the tiny lights have turned into stars!

I love to capture the stars with no need for a special filter!

Let this be the year you capture your outdoor Christmas lights
in all their glory!

Portraits with Christmas Lights

Of course, all of photography is based on light!

You need light to capture faces in portraits,
so that is what you will look for when you photograph
people with Christmas lights.

WHAT is going to light up their face?

I took my daughter Lindsay to this wonderful historic street in
a nearby town with white lights glittering over the road.

A business owner strung the lights and maintains them.
It's called Star Bridge and attracts photographers who want
to add that sparkle to portraits!

The best time for night photography with Christmas lights
is right after the sun sets and the sky is still a rich blue,
but it's dark enough to capture the lights.

Lindsay is always so kind to pose for me!  Thanks, sweetie!

I shot with my 50mm 1.4 lens
Aperture Priority
f2 gave me great bokeh from the background twinkle lights!
I used Auto ISO so I didn't have to keep checking it.
In Aperture Priority, the camera chose the shutter.

The star lights did give off a ton of light, but I positioned
Lindsay so a streetlight on the side of the road
illuminated her face.

I'm always asking myself...what is going to light up the face!
Look for a light source to do that.

As you can see in this photo taken by my photo pal Lucy,
I shot from a lower position to include the lights.

In this next photo, I used the streetlight again to
illuminate Lindsay,
and I added the pretty bokeh in the window using one
of the overlays from my Christmas Bokeh Collection I sell in my Etsy Shop.

These bokeh overlays are perfect for adding bokeh right where 
you want it the easy way!

That stack of presents is also an overlay that I sell in my Etsy Shop.

I have lots of fun Christmas Overlays in my shop to spruce up your holiday photos!

To photograph people with indoor Christmas lights...
once again, look for a light source to illuminate the face!

In this case, the light source is Lindsay's computer.

Don't just snap a photo...really look close for that light source!

I was sitting in my recliner watching a Christmas 
movie and noticed Lindsay lying on the floor with
 the light from her computer igniting her face.

I grabbed my camera and took these photos.

I really love to capture everyday life in creative ways with my camera.
The light on her face in this next photo was coming from a lamp I moved into position.
Look at those glittery lights in the background!

Try side lighting.  The light source in the next photo was our adjacent kitchen.

To photograph a child playing, with your Christmas tree in the background,
look for a light source and place your child, so that source
lights up their face.

In this case, I have a large sliding glass door that lights the part of the room
this child is facing.
That was my light source for the face.

By shooting a bit away from the tree, the lights will turn to
bokeh in the background.

You can also pose your child with a light source on their face.

These were all taken with the child facing a window. 

I LOVE the natural light from a window!

You can also try a lamp.

So take some time this holiday season to look for lighting
situations that will create some dazzling people photos with 
Christmas lights!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Crystal Ball Photography

You are probably seeing a lot of photos lately through
crystal balls!
It's becoming a popular and very creative photography technique.

I bought my crystal ball three years ago and want to share
some tips and some WARNINGS!

My crystal ball is 4-iches and made from heavy crystal.
Just google crystal balls and you will find places to purchase them.

Crystal balls can be extremely dangerous in direct sunlight!

After I bought my crystal ball, I thought it was so pretty,
I displayed it on a family room shelf with my photo albums.

One day, I was dusting that shelf and noticed a burn hole in the
album behind the crystal ball!

I was stunned!
This shelf is across the room from any windows and I never
realized that direct sun hit the crystal ball.

Can you imagine the tragedy if that photo album had caught on
fire?   It could have burned the house down if we were not home!

Never put a crystal ball on display inside your home!

This really frightened me, but I didn't realize how truly serious
this burn issue is until I took the ball outside into direct sunlight
to photograph my pink flowers.

I placed the ball on this wooden stool covered with a pink cloth.
You can see where the sun is concentrated on the pink cloth.

In the time it took me to lift my camera to take the photo, I smelled burning!
It had already singed through the pink cloth and burned the wood stool
in a matter of seconds!

If you are holding the crystal ball in the direct sunshine, it can burn your skin
or catch your clothing on fire!

I brought my crystal ball on a fall photo outing.  You can see that it was
a bright, sunny day.  I kept the crystal ball in its box until I found
some shade and only took it out in the shade!

Now that you are warned about the hazards...let me tell you about the fun
you can have photographing with the crystal ball.

The idea is to put the ball in a location where it will frame something
you want to photograph like this landscape.

This is the scene I was shooting through the crystal ball!

As you can see, the crystal ball FLIPS your scene upside down.
The sky is on the bottom of the ball and the landscape is on the top.

You can flip over the entire photo and crop out the stand that came with the crystal ball like this:

Or, you can flip the scene inside the globe.
I show you how to do that in my video tutorial.

I brought my crystal ball on a Christmas outing with our photo club.

I used my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens,
but others used different try several and see which you like best.
I tried my macro lens and was able to get closer...worked great!

Focus on the scene inside the crystal ball.

To capture the star glow around the lights,
shoot at night on tripod using a very small aperture.

Set your camera on aperture priority
100 ISO

This will create a very long shutter, but since you are on tripod, that's no problem.
You will love your STARS!

We really enjoyed using the crystal ball at night
and didn't have to worry about any fire dangers.

Your Christmas tree is a wonderful subject
for practicing with your crystal ball!

Not only will your tree look great in the ball,
the lights will turn to bokeh in the background.

This was my set up with the tree in the background.

The further the crystal ball is from the tree, the bigger your bokeh will be
in the background of your photo.

Start with these settings:

Aperture Priority
(or if your lens doesn't get that wide, the widest your aperture will go.)

ISO 100

You will have a long shutter, but that's fine on tripod.

Once you get a focus and lock it by clicking to manual focus on your lens, 
turn off all the lights in the room except for your Christmas tree.

Take the shot, then
Adjust your settings if needed to meet your light conditions.

Notice that I flipped this entire photo so the tree is right-side-up in the ball.

If you move the crystal ball closer to the tree,
your bokeh will be smaller and the tree will be bigger inside the ball.

You can see here, I flipped the tree inside the ball as
I demonstrate in the above video tutorial.

If you don't want to invest in a crystal ball...mine cost $40,
you can get a similar effect with a wine goblet filled with water.

I tried photographing my daughter through the crystal ball.

She looked a bit distorted, but this distortion
could make for some fun people photos...especially with kids!

Try a fun composite like this one I created to post on Christmas Eve s few years ago.

I photographed my daughter in the garage and moved the ball
and her to a snowy background.

You can have somebody hold the crystal ball or place it on different surfaces.

Use your imagination and have a BALL!