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11-14-2010, 12:09 PM   #1
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Taking pictures of a Christmas tree?

I just can't seem to get a good picture of my Christmas tree. And I'm fairly new to photography so it's probably just easy settings that I don't know for this kind of shot.

They end up looking like this:
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Looks weirdly saturated and just not pleasant at all. I have a Pentax K-x and was using a kit lens at the time on the Shutter Priority setting. Any tips on what shutter/aperture setting would work better? I don't really want to shoot it in a really brightly lit room so I just had a lamp on in the room.

11-14-2010, 01:59 PM   #2
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Getting good photos of lit trees has always been hard for me as well. I think the problem is that the lights are so much brighter than the tree that the exposure settings don't work right.

Try it with a well lit room so that the lights are not as big a difference. That seems to work best for me.

It is a little like taking a picture of the moon. You think it is very dark but in reality the moon is very bright so the exposure has to be much faster than what you think or it just over-exposes.
11-14-2010, 02:24 PM   #3
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Start by setting your WB to Tungsten unless those are LED lights (Then I can't help you). Set your camera to Av and give yourself a small aperture (f8-f11), set your ISO to 100, and let the camera do the rest. No guarantee this is going to work any better, it's just a suggestion.

11-14-2010, 03:06 PM   #4
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Well, you definitely don't want to include that bookcase/videotape case in the shot!!!

1) You're shooting down on it, so your perspective is a little awkward. Xmas trees should look big and powerful.

2) If you have a tripod, set it real low looking more UP at it. If not, crouch done and use that angle.

3) F8, and aim for F11. But this depends on the lens you're using. A wider lens won't require such a small aperture for the DOF.

4) Forget flash.

5) Think about shooting parts of the tree, and not the whole thing. If you have kids, like I did/do (they're older now). you probably have ornaments which they made in school, or special ornaments that hold special memories for you. (I have macaroni ornaments that my kids made with photos of them/us in them.) So zoom in/get close to THOSE branches of the tree and make your shots.

6) If using a tripod, small apertures, low ISO, and long exposure times, you can really do a lot of magic with Xmas tree shots--making the lights look really funky. Kind of like doing long exposures for a waterfall shot.

I never did any of this myself, because I never cared about shooting the tree. But maybe you inspired me to try this soon, and...

MODERATORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wouldn't "The Christmas Tree" be a great theme for the December monthly contest?

11-14-2010, 03:12 PM   #5
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I'm by no way a professional. I've taken thousands of horrible shots. So I've leave this to the more professional to answer you better. But In my opinion, your also too far away from the tree. Also it seems to me exposure is a problem. It's very dark the image. To me the image looks like it was taken with a camera phone and not the Kx.
11-14-2010, 05:48 PM   #6
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I've actually had luck using flash, then drag the shutter so that the lights from the tree also brighten up. May not be the perfect solution, but it didn't seem to be that bad.
11-14-2010, 10:08 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
Well, you definitely don't want to include that bookcase/videotape case in the shot!!!

1) You're shooting down on it, so your perspective is a little awkward. Xmas trees should look big and powerful.

2) If you have a tripod, set it real low looking more UP at it. If not, crouch done and use that angle.

3) F8, and aim for F11. But this depends on the lens you're using. A wider lens won't require such a small aperture for the DOF.

4) Forget flash.

5) Think about shooting parts of the tree, and not the whole thing. If you have kids, like I did/do (they're older now). you probably have ornaments which they made in school, or special ornaments that hold special memories for you. (I have macaroni ornaments that my kids made with photos of them/us in them.) So zoom in/get close to THOSE branches of the tree and make your shots.

6) If using a tripod, small apertures, low ISO, and long exposure times, you can really do a lot of magic with Xmas tree shots--making the lights look really funky. Kind of like doing long exposures for a waterfall shot.

I never did any of this myself, because I never cared about shooting the tree. But maybe you inspired me to try this soon, and...

MODERATORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wouldn't "The Christmas Tree" be a great theme for the December monthly contest?
Thanks for the tips. And that wasn't a picture I was trying to show off. I deleted all of the ones I took that I tried on because they weren't turning out right. I just did this to show you the problems I'm having.

I'll try some different stuff.
11-15-2010, 11:35 PM   #8
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I like mine to look old-fashioned (ie the 1970's). The only lighting is the tree lights. I shoot from a tripod with cable release; can't remember what I had the aperture and shutter set to. Maybe around f11 and 1/15 ISO400.

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11-16-2010, 12:25 AM   #9
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good start Josh. The advice given so far is all great, such as increasing room light or adding flash and dragging shutter.

This is not quite the same idea, but another thing you can do with a Christmas tree is put it in the background with a fast aperture (this is f/1.2) like this:

11-19-2010, 12:06 AM   #10
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Just a suggestion.

Play around with the settings, the white balance, the exposure compensation and such with the LiveView so you can see what the changes will do to the photo. Then when you are ready to take the shot switch to the viewfinder for focusing.

Or you could just do it all on the LiveView since it is made for these kind of shots where there is nothing moving at all.
11-19-2010, 07:09 PM   #11
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Well, it seems under-exposed. So, when shooting in any of the semi-automatic modes such as P, Av, or Tv (where the camera is choosing at least one variable), you will need to add about +1 Ev compensation. So, if the meter reads, for example, 1/15 @ f8, you will want to change the EV or manually change the settings so the exposure is 1/15@f5.6.
11-23-2010, 10:04 AM   #12
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I've never been happy with any of my Christmas tree shots and for the most part, the Christmas tree serves more as a background for family shots than as the main subject. The new LED lights display some really odd color glows (at least my lights do) that I can't get quite right. I like Ira's idea of making it a challenge.
11-23-2010, 02:09 PM   #13
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I generally use a tripod and a relatively long exposure with nothing but the tree lights on. It probably helps that all of our walls are white.

Then there's always variations on the "out of focus lights" approach:
11-23-2010, 10:35 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by eccs19 Quote
I've actually had luck using flash, then drag the shutter so that the lights from the tree also brighten up. May not be the perfect solution, but it didn't seem to be that bad.
That's my favourite way to do it. The flash will light up the unlit tree and highlight the ornaments, the longer shutter open time will expose the lights. With digital, you don't have to spend any money to keep playing with settings until you get the results you want. I found that adjusting the flash down to about 1/2 what the camera thinks it needs worked fairly well as a starting point, but every year the tree is a bit different and needs a slightly different tweak.
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