Photograph holiday decorations for magizine

Nikon 3200
AF-S 18-55 bundle lens
Bought your great tip card but no specific direction for shoot
Closest information??

I want just the light from a lot of lighted decorations from various angles.
Better homes and gardens requests sample photos for possible magizine feature.
Thanks, Billy


  • edited January 2019
    You'll do best experimenting here, because the light can vary a lot, and it will depend a little on what else in the picture you want to show.

    A couple of general hints, though:

    Automatic modes probably won't work well for you, and flash will not do at all. Best with either Manual, or A priority with exposure compensation.

    Turn off Auto ISO, or the camera will jump to a high, noisy setting. In a dark shot you want the lowest ISO you can get away with, even if it means using a very slow shutter speed. Digital noise is not very noticeable when it's bright, but it shows up in dark areas.

    First, you will need a tripod, so you can hold steady in a long exposure.

    For good depth of field and image quality, set your aperture at something around F8 (which is approximately the "sweet spot" for that lens) If you want to limit depth of field and get background and foreground blur, open the lens up to its widest aperture (smallest available number). The shutter speed will likely be quite long, so you'll need the tripod. If you are looking for background blur, use the longest focal length (55) of your lens. The closer you are to a thing, the shallower your depth of field, too.

    Try to focus on the most prominent or important light or decoration, whatever you want to be the center of attention. If it's not what your Auto Focus wants, turn off AF and focus manually. If you have trouble with the viewfinder, turn on Live View, and focus there. You can zoom the image on the back of the camera with the + and - buttons, and it will zoom only your view, not the picture the camera takes.

    Left alone, the camera's meter will likely overexpose, giving too much brightness to the room and contents, and in the process it will blow out the "specular" highlights, such as Christmas tree lights and candles. Try lowering the exposure (exposure comp if in A mode, lower shutter speed in M mode - but remember to turn off Auto ISO or it will raise without telling you). Depending on ambient light, and on what you want to show, the amount of compensation may vary greatly, so try it multiple ways. Remember, this is digital, and you can take many many pictures and throw the duds away, and nobody need ever see them. Try everything.

    Watch out for distracting objects in the room, and move or remove them if you can't avoid them. Mirrors, glass fronted pictures, and other sources of unwanted highlights. Remember that when your own attention is focused on something you may miss foreground and background objects like plant branches, wires, distracting shadows and so forth, but they will jump out of a picture at you. This is a very common problem for landscape photographers, who don't notice things like power lines and blurry blades of grass, but it hits indoors too.

    Finally, try to keep things simple. Things you're used to may look like clutter in a picture. Our brains are ingeniously wired to focus our attention on objects even though our visual field is very wide and deep. But when you translate that into a photograph, your brain doesn't get to do its work, and things that seemed prominent in our vision can be buried in the picture.

    p.s a couple of other things:

    You will probably want to set the White Balance to Auto, but don't be surprised if it's a bit odd, as it's hard put to decide what's best in some artificial light.

    If possible shoot Raw and use a program like Nikon View NX-2 or Capture NX-D or another program. This will allow you to adjust exposure, color, and white balance without penalty. Once you've done the basic adjustments, you can save the results as a JPG file as needed.

    And don't forget that the D3200's 24 megapixel sensor has a lot of room for cropping. If you get a good sharp shot to start with, you can straighten and crop quite a bit without visible loss. So don't be afraid to neaten up shots that need it.
  • Wow. Thanks for a great response. Ill try them all!!!
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