Trimming the tree and decking the halls, gathering around the fireplace and cookies by candlelight. It’s a magical time. If capturing this festive season is as important to you as it is to me, you may have been left somewhat disappointed over the years by the lack of magical glow from your dslr only to be replaced by a glaring frosty flash! Fear not, I’ve put together five creative ideas just in time for the holidays to put the magic into your photos sans flash!
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
For this creative exercise, set your dslr to manual mode and you will need a lens with a reasonably large aperture. Set the aperture to the lowest number, this is f/1.8 on my lens. Now select the ISO. In contrast to what we often hear about setting the ISO to the lowest number possible, you will need to set your ISO much higher than you may be used to. For these five ideas, try starting at ISO 1600 and experiment going up in increments (this is 3200, 6400 on my Canon.) Don’t be afraid of increasing your ISO for low light conditions as this is precisely its purpose.
Rather than overhead ceiling lights, try out some of these indoor lighting ideas to bring a more ambient and festive feel to your pictures.
ISO3200 f/1.8 1/80
1. STRING LIGHTS
I am officially outnumbered by those in favor of colored lights vs. white lights in our household, but somehow we have neither, we have blue LED lights :-) Whichever side you fall on, we can all agree that fairy lights are simply magical.
Used in the background they can add beautiful bokeh to your images. Have you thought of using them in the foreground? Create a circle with the string lights and hold them in front of the lens while focusing on your subject.
ISO1600 f/1.8 1/80
ISO1600 f/1.8 1/80
2. CANDLE LIGHT
Candle light or flickering flames from a fireplace produces a beautiful soft glow on the skin. It’s particularly effective if your subject is close by, casting the surrounding area in darkness. A nice little trick is to increase this striking contrast post edit by adding a dark vignette to further isolate the light.
ISO 3200 f/1.8 1/80
You can also add beautiful bokeh to your pictures by repositioning yourself with the string lights in the background.
ISO 1600 f/1.8 1/80
3. A MONITOR OR TV SCREEN
With so many Christmas favorites to enjoy watching over the holidays, the screen provides a great source of light and usually a great source of smiles!
ISO 1600 f/1.8 1/60
4. LATE AFTERNOON SUN
Though the winter light is quickly fading, you may be able to catch the last rays in the late afternoon. These images came about as we were sending off the older brothers with Oma and Opa at the front door and a beam of light happened to fall perfectly on the coffee table and my boy’s little hands as he was entertained by the bells. Even more beautiful was being able to capture the interaction between the siblings
ISO 400 f/1.8 1/80
5. EXTERIOR LIGHT
A porch light or the light coming in from a street lamp may be bright enough, yet you’ll notice that I had the ISO cranked all the way up to 6400. You may even find a unique angle from going outdoors and shooting through the window.
ISO6400 f/1.8 1/80
ISO6400 f/1.8 1/80
A WORD ON EDITING
When using indoor or other artificial light, you may find that your images have a strong yellow cast (or alternative colors.) I would recommend that you reduce the overwhelming color a little in your editing software in the color adjustment panel. Don’t attempt to remove the color completely as it may produce a grayish skin tone.
And lastly, when using a higher ISO, there will be noticeably more noise (grain) in your images. Use the noise reduction tool to take the edge off the grain and make sure the ‘sharpening’ is at zero if you happen to use a preset. Sharpening will add to the noise. Instead, use the spot brush tool to add contrast or clarity to areas you’d like to highlight.
Enjoy the holiday season and happy experimenting!