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The last couple of months I have been out in the garage trying to get Christmas lights bokeh in the background of shots I am taking of the dogs. This combined with the fact that I am also trying to use Off Camera Flash to really light the dogs has been a trial. I thought I had some winners until Nancy told me I didn't :) And that is not a criticism at all, because many times we can't see the whole picture, but just our dogs! I so appreciate honest critiquing. Here are a couple of shots I tried to do all in one shot...with OCF and lights. These could MUCH better, but gave me a starting point.

This was taken with my 100 mm lens. F 3.2, ISO 800, 1/125, Flash did fire

Lens 24-70, F 3.2, 1/50, ISO 500 Flash Fired

Nancy suggested I shoot the background separately from the dogs and merge the two photos, which is what I did here. I did this under protest as I am still sure it can all be done in camera :)

So, I think it would be fun for all of us to try some Holiday lights photos while we have lights all around us. 

Here is some great information I found on how to go about doing these kinds of shots with flash. He explains it much better than I can. 

https://photographylife.com/indoor-portraits-with-a-christmas-tree-...

Here are most of the points he made....Flash should be on TTL, Use a tripod, Slow shutter speed, and widest aperture you can do. 

and just a few tutorials. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYhR3F_8YM0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKEQugIXfGE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPcdWxhLwoA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0G7sk61obs

I like the third video, because it shows you can do this assignment without flash. Post your pictures here and tell us what you did and how you did it. We can all help each other learn by doing it together. 

Nancy also had these good points: 

One note, mentioned in one of the videos, is that if your holiday lights are LED, you may have flicker issues unless you shutterspeed is 1/60 or slower. In your pictures it will look like random lights are off. (Speaking from personal experience).

And this ties perfectly as a follow up to last month's lesson about depth of field. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

it can all be done in camera!  If you want the big circles you need a lot of space. 

Update: Here is another good video that talks about light fall off sent to me by Nancy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO-J42VM448




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Replies to This Discussion

Oh, this is priceless!!!!!!!

I think you did an excellent job at executing the tutorial. I would change your white balance to tungsten though.
The great thing is that the doorway blocks a lot of the overhead light from hitting your lights, and the lights are really far away.

This was my best shot today and it is bad. Any advice on how to get my black background more black? I have fussed and fussed with that wrinkle on the right. My settings were 2.8, 1/20, ISO 100. Vern is about 8 feet from the lights. I used my 24-70 lens on a tripod and I'm pretty close to Vern. Speedlite bounced off ceiling on TTL and reflector on other side. I am less worried right now about Vern's out of focus nose and more concerned with getting it lit correctly. 

Vern does not look happy.

He sometimes thinks he is in trouble :)

If you turn your flash off and the background is black and the lights look okay, too much light is hitting your background. So you need to find a way for your light not to hit your background.

I think you are way too close to the background. I would be at least 16 ft or more away. If you look at the videos you provided that have dark backgrounds:
In the Adorama video he is super far away from the model. And he even has huge black boards to block the lights from hitting the background. The low tech guy is photographing something very small, and everything is proportional. The other samples are not trying to get the background black.

So, move vern farther away from the background. And I probably wouldn't bounce off the ceiling.

Thanks, Nancy. I will try that. Would you not use the flash at all or possibly light Vern more from the sides? I will go out there tomorrow and move Vern as far from the background as I can. I may move him outside.

I think you should definitely use a flash. Or not. What I'm saying is that the flash in the picture is hitting the background. You need to have the flash closer to Vern and farther away from the background. I sent you a link to a video that I think will help.

Yes, I got the video after I asked the question and linked it above. I think I got the concept now and will try again tomorrow or Friday. The video helped a great deal. Thank you!

Second round.....F 2.8, 1/15, ISO 1250....Flash on camera on TTL pointed towards ceiling, reflector in front of Vern. I want bigger bokeh.

The lighting and tones are very nice. Vern looks great. Did you move him farther away from the background? I think that's what you need to do. And to get bigger bokeh you need to use a longer lens. Not sure why your settings are so extreme. I would cut the iso and raise the shutter speed. I did it in pitch black and my settings were 85mm f2. 1/50 sec. iso 200

Here is how I would approach it:

1. Put an object on a stool or whatever so the height is the same as Vern.

2. Forget about the flash.

3. Look through the lens. Try more wide open apertures and a longer lens. Move your distances until you get the bokeh look you want and the exposure you want for the lights,with the object on the chair in focus-but don't worry about the light on the object just yet. Take a few pictures.

4. Once you get that figured out. Leave your distance in place and set up your flash in the foreground. Once the light on the object is close put Vern in and adjust your flash/reflector.

This was all done before I saw the video you sent me, but yes, I moved him further from the lights. I was operating under the impression that the shutter speed was supposed to be very slow. I thought that is what one of the videos said. I had this on 70 mm. I did then go to my 100 mm lens.  I don't have much more space than that, if I move Vern farther still from the background. Thanks for all the help. I will work on it some more tomorrow following these instructions. 

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