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Photography Question 
Kevin Soucie

How To Shoot Fire At Night With Digital

I am a firefighter and an amateur photographer. Occasionaly I travel to other towns when they have building fires etc. I own the Sony DSC-F717 it takes great photos during the day and great indoor shots at night but I am having no luck when I go to take action shots at structure fires. I do not have an external lense will that help? Also I have nightshot but then I loose quality of the picture. Should I use a tripod? Any help from people who have any experience or advice would be appreciated Thanks.

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11/22/2003 5:39:35 PM

Tony Sweet
Tony's Photo Courses:
2-Week Short Course: A Quick Start to Adding More 'Pop' to Your Images
  Shooting at night when the sky is black is a challenge, to say the least, even with film which has greater contrast latitude. You will get good results shooting at dusk when there is some color in the sky. For example, photographing the moon at night will result in a white hole in a black space. Photographing the moon at dusk will result in an accurate, detailed image of the moon. You will also need to set your ISO, if possible, to at least ISO800 and use a tripod. You will also need to set your lens to it's widest aperture.

Good luck!

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11/23/2003 6:03:10 AM

Sreedevi  Kashi   Perhaps using a flash might help. There are different ways to do it, so it depends on whether you have a few seconds to set up your shot, or if you're shooting on the fly. If you're shooting on the fly, the easiest way is to attach a flash onto the camera. Have it set on auto. Now each camera has a particular shutter speed that works with the flash, generally marked by an x or shown as a different color. You can shoot at a shutter speed slower than what you're supposed to- this will help fill in the background without affecting your main focus too much, as the flash will have gone off already. This is how it works for film cameras. For digital, it's a matter of seeing what the settings would be if you were to use the flash, and then of course change it to manual so you can change the shutter speed on it yourself. Generally, it should work just like a film camera.

The other way is a bit more complicated, and you'll need a light meter, but it basically follows the same logic. Also, I find with high contrast, it helps to shoot the scene one stop under than what the camera wants to shoot it at, as the highlights always get blown out. If you set the aperture one stop under and the shutter speed a couple of stops slower using the flash, you may be able to get all the detail- it's tricky, though, because I know all cameras are different, but I'm told that most are made to work similarly to using a film camera.

You should also try playing with the contrast functions. I'm not familiar with that particular camera, but I do know that some cameras let you set it on low contrast before shooting- I don't know how good it looks, but it should help to show the entire scene.

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11/26/2003 6:52:09 AM

Paul Illes   Since it is a digital camera, boost your ISO to 800 if it will go that high, at least 400 otherwise. True, it is supposed to add artifacts, but if you end up with a usable picture, so what? By boosting the ISO you will be able to use a slightly faster shutter to stop flame movement. Use shutter priority in the appropriate setting for you camera and set it at 100th, shoot, then set it at 150th and shoot, then drop to 50th or 60th of a second and you will see how much blur the flames make. THEN, in whatever software you have for manipulating your photos, use "levels" and move the middle control or the dark control on the left, to make the shadows come up. Digital images work better if under exposed. Once they are overexposed there is nothing to bring back. Try this, or some variation close to it.

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11/26/2003 3:23:52 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  What don't you like about your pictures. Most of the time when somebody wants to shoot flames, they don't compensate for the brightness of the flames so everything is too dark.

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11/26/2003 3:42:29 PM

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