This has been my most popular photography question, both on email and on the blog post, so it gets an entry all its own.
In order to get pictures of your kids (or your dog, or even your husband) lit by the light of the Christmas tree you will need to do the following:
1. Turn off your flash.
2. Set your camera to Manual. (You can also try shutter priority, and ignore step #3.) If you don't have any of these manual modes on your camera, try the night mode, but most likely you will have a hard time getting the right effect. Sorry.
3. Choose the widest possible aperture your lens/camera will allow. This will be the lowest number. Check your camera's instruction manual to learn how to do this if you don't know. All of my header pictures and the above picture were taken at f/1.8.
4. Choose a high ISO. I took the above picture at ISO 1600, which is the highest my camera will allow. I took the picture of Sophie in my header at ISO 400, which really wasn't high enough and I had to fix it a bit in photoshop. I think I could have gotten away with 800.
5. Choose a fast shutter speed so that your children will stay in focus. You will want that to be a number that matches the focal length of your lens. For instance, if you are shooting with a 35 mm lens, choose 1/30 or 1/40. If you are shooting with a dSLR that has a crop factor (check your manual, folks!) make sure you allow for that when you choose your shutter speed. In the above picture I used a 50 mm lens, but because of my crop factor I needed to double that number to ensure good focus. I shot it at a shutter speed of 1/100.
6. Turn off the house lights and get your kids/dog/husband set up by the tree and start taking pictures! Experiment with your SS and ISO settings, but I recommend that you leave your aperture open as wide as possible.
7. Have fun!
8. These pictures, because they are purposefully underexposed and/or taken at a high ISO, will have a lot of digital noise in them. I suggest downloading Noiseware Community Edition (Google it) and running the pictures through it to eliminate the graininess.
In order to get the really sparkly, twinkly lights that are on the background picture of my header, follow these instructions:
1. Turn off your flash.
2. Set your camera to either Manual or Shutter Priority.
3. Set your aperture fairly narrow (higher number). My picture was shot at f/13.
4. Set your ISO to 400.
5. Set your shutter speed to a very long exposure. Mine was done at 10 seconds, but you can experiment. I do have to say,that at the settings I used even 8 seconds did not produce quite the results I wanted.
6. Put your camera on a tripod or a table or chair. Do not attempt this picture while holding your camera or it will be hopelessly blurry.
7. Turn off the house lights.
8. Take your pictures!
If you don't understand any of the above, I suggest reading your manual and finding out just what your camera is capable of doing. I am not very familiar with the point and shoots, but I know a lot of them offer quite a few manual settings.
Don't forget to keep posting any photography questions. I will make a bigger post next week! Until then enjoy playing with your camera and your Christmas tree lights!