SELF ASSIGNMENT DIRECTIONS
by Florence W Deems
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Shooting Holiday Lights of necessity will take place from a little while before sunset to total darkness. If you shoot the lights while there's still some light/color in the sky, you can get effects that are different from those when the sky is totally dark. So try it both ways.
TRIPODS/STABILIZING SURFACES: Try to find a steady surface upon which to place your camera, because you will be using slow shutter speeds. If you have a tripod or monopod, use it! You can place it almost anywhere to get the point of view you desire.
FREE HAND: If there's no tripod or other stable surface, then you'll have to shoot with the camera unsupported. If you can find a pole or fence or wall to lean against, use this to steady your body while holding the camera as steadily as possible.
FORGET ABOUT SHARP FOCUS: Failing all of the above, just relax and try out some in-camera blurs. Meaning you'll get jiggly designs from the lights which can be very interesting. Try walking slowly forward and then click the shutter and see what you get. Also try deliberately throwing the lights out of focus to get large "balls" of lights.
APERTURE/LENS: open the lens as wide as possible, to get the fastest shutter speeds. This means f/stops of at least f/4. If your lens has it, f/3.5, f/2.8 or even f/2 will be better.
ISO: This goes hand in hand with wide apertures. Use the highest ISO setting your camera will give you that doesn't create color noise in the dark areas of the image. Color noise is speckles of colors scattered in the dark areas that shouldn't be there.
WHITE BALANCE: If you use Auto White Balance, you let the camera choose according to the temperatures of the light in the scene. Or you can try using Daylight balance which can give some lovely effects, especially if the sky still has some color in it. Or try Artificial (Indoor or Incandescent) balance. Use different White Balances on the same scene and see which one you like the best. If you start shooting while the sky still has color, then you may have to change the White Balance after the sky loses its color.
Best of all, have fun and experiment!
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