Photographing Indoor Christmas Tree

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by smackitsakic, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. smackitsakic
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    smackitsakic New Member

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    Any tips/suggestions on how to capture a good quality, captivating photo of an indoor Christmas tree? What technique do you use to photograph a Christmas tree without using a flash?
  2. smackitsakic
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    smackitsakic New Member

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    .
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010
  3. Nikon_Dude
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    Nikon_Dude New Member

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    If your camera works the same as mine, you can only use a shutter speed of 1/200 or slower when using flash.

    Instead of pointing the flash at the subject, angle it upwards and bounce it off the ceiling. Makes a huge difference.
  4. thomascoe
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    thomascoe New Member

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    I believe smackitsakic was asking how to photograph a Christmas tree without flash, not how to use a flash. I was wondering the same thing. Also, what would be the best way to photograph a portrait of people in front of a Christmas tree?
  5. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Flash can help to illuminate the room. Think bounced flash. Then, think about how the lights themselves need to be rendered: with a Sloooow shutter speed. Today's small, LED-type lights are pretty low-powered and very,very small, compared to the kind of big 1.25 inch long by 3/4 inch diameter tulip-style Christmas bulbs of the 1960s-1990's...try using the LCD and figuring out how slooooow you can go before the lights start to burn out and look ugly...

    If you "really" want to do it up right...you need to use flash + slow shutter speed. Set the camera's white balance to Incandescent, to get the light looking the right color. Then, the flash needs to be brought "down" from 5,500 degrees kelvin to a more orange-ish light that more closely matched the Incandescent white balance, so the flash needs to be fired with an orange full CTO gel taped to it...that will equalize the color temperature of the flash to that of the lights, and will give a very realistic looking Christmas tree and bulbs look.

    If one uses JUST the long exposure, the tree doesn't look quite right....if one uses JUST a flash exposure at a fast shutter speed like say 1/200 second, the Christmas tree lights look like teeny tiny specks of light...think along the lines of flash + 1.0 second at f/8 at ISO 400 as a starting point....

    If you want to shoot more candid type stuff, like say the gift opening, exposures more like f/2.8 at 1/30 second at ISO 400 to ISO 640 + flash will work nicely. [​IMG]

    This is how I'd shoot the gift-opening type stuff...slow speed of 1/30, gelled flash, Incandescent WB, f/2.8.
  6. smackitsakic
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    smackitsakic New Member

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    Sorry...i actually double posted and one was about trees and one about flash, so that's my fault.

    The photo tips with using a flash are great, though I don't have a flash so can't put that to use. That, and I don't want to take pictures of people in front of a tree, but rather the tree itself.

    So, that being said, just go to a slow shutter speed and small aperture (f16'ish)? What kind of lighting in the room will give me the best exposure? Dark room with only the lights of the tree being 'on'? Or have the room lit as much as possible including the tree lights?
  7. Vinny
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    Vinny New Member

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    If that's you in the avatar, your camera does have a flash. Looking at Derrel's photo obviously his advice is probably the best your going to get!

    So with that said, here's my lame advice ... I would leave the lights on in the room and the lights on the tree. I would have the lights in the room about the same distance apart on each side of the tree if you can. Take a few exposures with your fixed aperture to get the correct exposure.
  8. cajunbandmom
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    cajunbandmom New Member

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    Thank you Derrel ! I can't wait until I get my speedlite in so I can try this.
  9. lildlege1
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    lildlege1 New Member

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    This is off topic but,
    I noticed your from Louisiana so am I . Its just weird because I havent actually seen anyone on here from La.lol
  10. KVRNut
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    KVRNut New Member

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    I've found that it starts with decorating the tree for photography. On an 8 ft. tree, I'll use over 1500 mini lights and try to keep the light distribution even from the trunk out. This gives even lighting and great depth through the tree. That way you can turn out the lights in the house and let the tree do the lighting.
    Setting your tree in front of a window can create additional lighting with the reflection of the tree off the glass. You can also go outside and take some pictures looking in at the tree of of loved ones decorating the tree.
    Try to create small scenes on the tree with your orniments. This allows you to take in the whole thing or be selective as to what you photograph whether it's a flight of cyrstal angels or a group of elves sitting on a branch.

    Use a tri-pod, one that can allow you to go from just above the floor to the top of the tree and grab the remote shutter release while you're at it. I use ISO 100 film so longer shutter times are normal. When I use a macro lens at f.16 or greater, shutter times can be as long as 30+ seconds.

    For lenses, have some fun and experiment. I like using macro lenses but then I'm not afraid of using a 70-300mm macro with doubler to get a different angle on things. Extension tubes, lens reversers, and prime lenses are also kept handy. Have fun with the f.stops. Shallow depth of field can be just as rewarding as deep depending on what you visualize.

    You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned flash at all. As you may have gathered, I don't use one. The tree provides all the light I need. A flash would wash out the rich colors and give unwanted glare off of decorations.

    Filters? Try a cross screen filter for star effects from the lights or a softening filter if you want a dreamy look. Vignetting filters also have a use too. Don't be afraid to stack them either.

    Above all, have fun and photograph with your heart on the shutter release keeping in mind the Joy of Christmas.

    Ernie
  11. Geaux
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    Geaux Well-Known Member

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    Louisiana checking in ... :D

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