Thursday, December 03, 2009

How to get a great Christmas tree photo

Since this article was so popular last year I am reposting for 2009.....

Here we have two beautiful christmas tree photos of our Son:

how to get a great Christmas tree photo with children

how to get a great Christmas tree photo with children

Now, here is how it is done....

First, you need to have the tree lit, and all of the other lights off in the room. Because light falls off over distance, and these lights aren't very bright, the light falls off pretty quickly. The further the tree is from the walls, the darker the walls are and the more the tree stands out from the background.

Because the room is so dark, you'll need to push your camera settings - high ISO (800 here), wide aperture (F1.4, 50mm lens) and slow shutter speed (1/20). With a slow shutter speed, you'll want your camera on a tripod for sure. In trying to maximize your light, you should also be wary of DOF. Here I focused on my Son and changed to M focus to make sure I didn't drift off of him.

This is really nothing more than a tripod mounted photo of a kid in a dark room, with one exception - the starburst on the lights. Photoshopped in? Nope.

When your aperture is set really narrow (F22 here) it creates a starburst on lights (I learned this trick shooting night time landscape photos). Try this - look at a light in your room and squint your eyes real narrow - same idea.

So the trick here is that I took two photos - a second one was taken at F22 with a six second shutter speed. I had my Son out of the picture for this shot (he'd be blurred all over the place at six seconds. So I had one photo of my Son in front of the tree with no starburst, and a second photo without him but with the starburst.

Then I layered the two photos and used a layer mask to combine them (see How To #10 here for a tutorial on using layer masks). By combining the images I get the best of both worlds.

Here is a trick to get this right...In this case I wanted to go from my widest aperture to my most narrow aperture. After I got the shot of Gavin, I switched from 1.4 to 22, but I counted the number of clicks that it took me to get there (16 I think). Then when I changed my shutter speed to compensate, all I had to do is turn it 16 clicks in the opposite direction and wa la, I have the same exposure. Only difference being the starburst and of course DOF.




Anonymous KimS said...

LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing!

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

Running for my tripod to set up my tree shot right now...THANK YOU !

9:32 PM  
Blogger Sharlene Conley said...

Thank you so much! Beautiful portrait!

6:39 PM  
Blogger erpeer said...

Gorgeous! Thanks for the tips! :)

7:27 PM  
Blogger Margie said...

Thank you Shawn... Suppose I would have to have a TREE to do this HUH.. MERRY CHRISTMAS Friend!! AM

7:12 AM  
Blogger Shirley said...

thanks Shawn, for sharing all that you do...... very much appreciated..... THE PHOTO OF GAVIN BY THE TREE IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES

8:57 PM  

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