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Photography Question 
Lyndon Guy

Christmas Lights - Outdoors

Now here's a no-win situation for you:

Each winter, the local aboretum does a winter lights display involving about a gazillion miniature lights set up all over their gardens. Really quite lovely. I'd really like to figure out out a way to shoot a portrait against this background - I tried about half a roll this year - either I blurred the subject with too long an exposure (also over exposed the lights) or underexposed the subject (lights looked pretty cool though). Thought about trying to figure an angle with a fill flash for the subject that wouldn't light up the background too much, but I have my doubts about this being possible. Any good ideas for next year??

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3/27/2001 3:50:45 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
UGH! You're right, it's a no-win.

Christmas lights are typically closer to tungsten balanced than daylight. Might not be as noticeable a problem with colored lights, but if there are a large number of "white" ones, or if there is snow cover on the ground that will be in the image, it can be! You'll have mixed lighting with somewhat warmer than tungsten balanced lights and a daylight balanced flash.

Also . . . too much flash will leave your background underexposed. Use an ISO 400 film. Then, if you have a dedicated flash unit that your camera body can control with its metering, run the lens wide open and force the shutter speed for flash sync to 1/30th. This will allow as much ambient as possible with a fast film and force minimal flash power. Don't worry about this shutter speed being too slow. In the Good Old Days of flash bulbs, the common "M" and "F" flash sync speeds for them were 1/25th or 1/30th because their flash duration was much longer than a strobe. Just brace yourself in a solid stance.

Just some ideas, no promises it will work that well: "Your mileage may vary."

-- John

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4/6/2001 10:33:35 PM

Frank Greer   a long time ago and in a place far away anow past photo publication published the best guide ever offered to the photographer it was called a guide to nightime photography. It was republisher by Popular Photography around 1970 I think hope this will help and remember

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4/16/2001 2:09:16 AM

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