January 11, 2010
Point’n’Shoot Photography 102
Tues & Thurs 11:10 AM
What I Learned Over Christmas Vacation:
Experiments in Point’n’Shoot Photography and Christmas Lights
On Christmas eve, bundled up in many layers, accessorized with an IPod shuffle filled with the most jammin’ Christmas Music, I set out on a journey.
A few days prior, I had learned that my standard Kodak Easy Share Point’n’Shoot camera had a some manual features that I had been loving on Julie’s DSLR as of late. I read my camera’s manual and learned a little bit about ISO, F-Stop, manual exposure and focus, deciding that a photo/Christmas light tour through my neighborhood would be a great adventure to embark on, hopefully establishing a new tradition if all went well.
Through a bit of web research, along with trial and error, I learned a few tips for photographing twinkle lights.
Tip #1: Things to bring with you on your journey:
- your camera [duh.]
- extra batteries or memory cards, if you have them or will need them
- a tripod, if you have one; but if not…
- a bean bag; if you don’t have a tripod, you can use a bean bag atop of a fence, parked car, curb, etc. You can make your own bean bag by filling a Ziploc bag with dry beans.
- a small stack of blog business cards, if you have them; I carried some in my coat pocket and gave a few out to neighbors who approached me and asked about what I was doing
- a small flashlight; this will help you to see the settings on your camera if there isn’t a lot of light around
- Common Sense; Don’t travel too far from home, bring a friend if possible, walk on the sidewalk, and wear something reflective.
Tip #2: You want to take photos of outdoor lit decorations about 20-30 minutes after sunset. You can find what time is the official sunset time at weather.com. When you embark on your photo journey, you will feel like it is too light outside. Ignore that feeling. Your photos will turn out best when there is still a bit of light in the sky.
Tip #3: Do not shoot with a flash. End of story.
Tip #4: Use your self timer. Even if you use a tripod, pressing the button with your finger to trigger the shutter may make the camera shake. When shooting Christmas lights, the trick is to be as still as possible. If you use the self timer on your camera, you are more likely to get a much steadier shot. Here is an example.
2 Second Self Timer:
Tip #5: If possible, shoot in a manual exposure. This takes some practice and reading your manual and general photography tips will be of a lot of help. I read a bit on Photo Kaboom which gave me several suggestions for what settings to try, and throughout my walk, I experimented with each of the following.
f/2 at 1/2 of a second
f/2 at 1/4th of a second
f/2 at 1/8th of a second
Tip #6: Experiment with manual focus, especially if your automatic focus is having trouble finding the shot because of the darkness. Point’n’Shoot manual focus is a lot different than a DSLR [you don’t get to twist any lenses, instead you are moving a setting on the screen with your cursor pad] but it is worth the effort.
Tip #7: Just play. I stopped reading my note card of suggestions, and figured out how to create a bokeh [purposeful blur] on my own. [I love love LOVE bokeh shots, and can’t wait to experiment more with this type of shooting!]
Tip #9: Visit businesses and community establishments. The storefronts on the main street in my village are decked out with window scenes and outdoor trimmings, too. Some of the churches in town have nativity scenes worth capturing, too.
Tip #10: Have fun. Keep shooting until you run out of fun, energy, or warmth.
Remember there are no rules when it comes to creativity.