Posted in South Jersey Land & Seascapes

Tips for photographing night parades

Night photography, Antique fire engine in Cape May Christmas parade decorated with holiday lights (Blair Seitz)I have a simple though effective means of photographing night parades and low-light indoor events, which are both represented in this holiday gallery.

Both combine the use of flash (preferably a flash you can hold off camera though also with on-camera and in-camera flash.  For the photos in this holiday party celebration I used an off-camera Sony flash and for the Christmas parade pictures I used the flash built-into my camera.

The photographs have much more color and fuller ambiance than would result from a direct flash photo (a photo taken with your camera simply on “flash” setting).  In order to have the lights in the photograph show brightly or even with the creativity of the streaks of light, you must set the camera on “manual”. Then set the speed at 1/30 of a second (or 1/8 of a second or longer if you want the light to streak in the parade shots).  Set the aperture (lens opening) at f.4 or f5.6. You can set the ISO at 400 or if your camera sets the ISO automatically, allow the camera to choose the ISO.

Turn the flash on. If you have a flash compensation setting (find it in your “menu settings” under “flash settings”) set it at -.7 (minus .7 or 1).  This compensation will keep the flash from making the flash part of the exposure too bright. If you do not have flash compensation, use the flash setting for “backlight flash” or on some cameras this may be termed “fill-flash” on the flash settings.

Now you are prepared to make what I call two pictures in one.  The flash will go off at 1/500th to 1/1000th of a second exposing freezing the movement in everything it lights (mostly in the foreground of the picture. This picture will be sharp and well exposed.  However, while the flash is set off instantaneously, another picture is forming because the camera lens is open for 1/30th of a second or longer. This “2nd picture” allows the light to “burn” into the film or digital capture, which creates the bright, colorful lights and, if desired, with a longer exposure setting of more than 1/30th of a second, streaking in the lights.

When you view the parade pictures, the sharp and well-exposed musicians or vehicle including the clothing or lettering is a result of the flash exposure.  The background light, the brightness of the holiday lights and the creative streaking effect is a result of the cameras slow speed setting in the “2nd picture”.

Similarly, in the indoor low-light photos, the flash illuminates the image and makes it sharp in the foreground while the 1/30th speed setting on the camera allows the ambient light to “burn” into the film (if you are still using a film camera) or digital capture.  This enables the camera to capture the low light in the gymnasium. The result is a picture that looks like your eyes see it, rather than the light foreground and dark background, which would result from the direct flash setting. View Gallery

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