Christmas Trees & White Balance

In which I mess about with exposure and white balance for some Christmas photographs...

So I'm going to cover some basics settings for photographing a Christmas tree and also show the difference between white balance settings and how it affects your pictures.

Christmas Trees

Auto mode doesn't really capture Christmas Trees at all well so stick to Manual mode. Below is a picture of my first attempt before I re-positioned to counteract the reflections from the windows. I also turned the lights off to make the shot easier. As you will be using long exposure times a tripod comes in very handy!

In order to get the desired effect of glowing lights we want to expose the photo as much as possible. In order to achieve this you need to have the widest aperture your camera and lens can manage. I used f/5 as it was the lowest setting my camera would muster at the time.* I also used an ISO of 3200 (my camera does have two higher settings but they introduce too much noise).

The picture above is a not exposed enough but showed me that the photo was correctly lined up and that I didn't have any reflections in the glass anymore. I then sorted the exposure and set it to 1/5 seconds.

Without any cropping and editing this photo looks pretty good. However further exposure will give it that Christmas card feel and make the presents visible. Increasing the exposure time to 1/2 seconds gives the desired result.

I will probably mess around with the photo later to try and enhance it a bit but I think it's turned out pretty well :)

Also while using my tripod I was able to get a good shot of a trixy cat!

*It does go down to f/4.5 but I'm not sure which setting I changed to prevent it from doing so.

White Balance

I recently visited Cologne in Germany for the Christmas markets and I messed about with the white balance which until now I have been leaving on Auto. The white balance (or colour balance) of a photo is a setting which changes the relative weighting of the colours in an image.† Auto mode attempts to pick the best white balance for each scene but isn't always accurate and sometimes you want to force the camera to achieve a different effect.

I've found the shady white balance setting on my Nikon is very good for photographing candles and making things look more Christmassy :)

The picture on the left shows the 'Auto' white balance mode while the one on the right shows the 'Shady' setting. This makes the candles look much nicer even if it is less realistic.

I had a very good time snapping away at all the Christmas markets and here are a few choice photos :)

†As I'm doing an imaging PhD I think I will probably do some posts in the future on the finer details of digital images.

Tom Out!