Star burst

How do you create a star burst like this?

Fine Cuban (Photo: Michael Willems)

You may want to edge or window the sun or light – but the most important technique is very simple: use a small aperture (a high “f-number”). I used f/22 in this shot (and that gave me 1/50th second at 200 ISO).

Yet another little factoid to store away in your knowledge base.

Stick around with me and I promise many more – and for new readers, do consider reading the entire archive here – or quicker, come in for a course or coaching session. December is a great month, so that you can be ready for the holidays and all the wonderful family and event shots you will take. Remember: photography is time travel.


Evolution of an exposure

To help you see how to expose something well, here’s a way – the thought process that might go through your head.

Of course the way to guarantee a right exposure is one of:

  1. Use a grey card and spot meter off that.
  2. Use an incident light meter.

But failing that, you can do it with the in camera meter, if you are willing to go through a little bit of a process. With experience this comes were quick indeed.

First, shoot:

Uh oh, too light. Oh yeah… plants are dark. But the camera does not know it is shooting plants, so they look “normally bright”.

The histogram for this shot shows this:

Yeah, a general “normal” exposure.

You could now stop and pull the exposure back in Lightroom alter, of course (exposing to the right, a good technique to get best quality and lowest noise), and that would be fine.

But let’s say you want to expose well in the camera. Then find the right exposure… say -1 to -2 stops of exposure compensation.

And that gives you a proper hedge row:

Proven by the now correct-for-the-scene histogram:

But the colour. Mmm. Wonder if switching to “cloudy” or “shade” might give you a less blue, more green plant?

Evidently yes. See the histogram: the blue is pulled back:

And so that is how you might make an exposure without a grey card or incident light meter. A little thought is all that is required – and the histogram helps!


Hallowe’en Challenges

So. You want to go out and shoot pics of the kids trick-and-treating at Hallowe’en?

Challenges, challenges.

  1. It is dark. Backgrounds get very dark.
  2. Slow shutter speeds result.
  3. But bright bits are too bright.
  4. And flash can blow out everything.
  5. There is nothing to bounce that flash off.

There is no single answer, but there are strategies. And your strategies will centre around:

  • Avoiding blur. Fast lenses will help, as will correct exposure (if the picture is dark, you need to make it appear dark enough, which means faster shutter speeds.)
  • Being aware of the light. It is, and should look, dark.
  • But also, avoiding the bright parts of the images from getting overexposed.
  • Equalizing flash and ambient parts of the image.
  • Perhaps diffusing your flash.

So these tips will help:

  • Use high ISO: 800 or 1600.
  • If possible, fast lenses (low “f-numbers”).
  • And if possible, wide angle lenses – these are easier to focus and to use at slow shutter speeds.
  • You can use White Balance set to the “wrong”setting to get more eerie light (try “daylight” or even “cloudy”).
  • Expose to make the image dark (exposure compensation, minus, when most of the picture is dark, or manual exposure mode).
  • Consider using a monopod.
  • When using flash, considering turning that down (using flash exposure compensation, minus).
  • Consider using a gel on the flash – perhaps a slight CTO gel.
  • Consider turning your camera upside down and bouncing the flash off the ground, for ghoulish effect!

The good news: you have a few days to practice!