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Photographers and Artists

Need advice

Looks like we have a few photographers and artists in our midst so here's a place to talk about all photography, art, and related subjects.

Need advice

Postby Purley » Mon 2 Jan 2006 17:30 GMT

I took this photo last night when it was snowing:

Image

As you will see, it has kind of reflections or something in it. A friend of mine said that it what happens when you take a photo of snow with a flash.

Can someone please tell me how I could take a nighttime photo when its snowing without those circle lights there?
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Mon 2 Jan 2006 18:33 GMT

Your friend is right Liz. That's caused by the flash highlighting the snow.

What you're trying to do is not easy. The best thing would be to suppress the flash and take the shot with the camera supported on something (preferably a tripod). The only thing with that is that the shutter speed would then necessarily be so slow that the snow would blur and show as faint streaks rather than "freezing" the motion.

Here is what I would try: First, I would try it on a tripod. If you have much control over your camera, I would experiment with differing shutter speeds. You may find that the nearest snow flakes would blur so much that they become invisible.

The other thing I would try would be to try to cover the first few feet above the camera (take the photo from undercover somewhere) and still use the flash. In this way, there would be no near flakes to catch the light.
Either way, the flash needs to be used either not at all or only to "catch the highlights" (Slow shutter sync). Outside night shots always mean no flash unless you're trying to illuminate close objects (snapshots of people).

Basically, if your camera has much manual control - experiment :D

I hope this helps some - let us know the outcome.

Alan.
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Postby Purley » Mon 2 Jan 2006 19:14 GMT

I thought it would be easier to do this:

Image

Just went in and took out most of the reflections!!
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Postby ruggie » Wed 4 Jan 2006 13:29 GMT

Good try, Liz. Makes the pic quite acceptable. I

If you want to do better, you'll have to play with the camera settings as much as you can. Even a single lens reflex (SLR) would take a lot of skill and experience to get a perfect pic. What you have to try for, to the limit of the capability of your camera, is the fastest possible 'film speed' and minimal 'fill-in' flash starting some distance from the camera.

I suspect that the only real solution is not to use the camera's own flash (whatever you do, that will give strong reflections from snowflakes really close to the camera) and use an SLR camera set at ISO1600 and one or two heavily-diffused slave flash units lighting the middle ground from the sides. That's beyond what most of us have either the equipment or the experience to do.

On a compact, the best you can probably do is to choose the fastest speed (probably ISO400, or 'low light' setting), and turn off the flash or stick a piece of cloth over it to reduce its intensity.

If you're keen to try a bit of do-it-yourself experimenting, here's a suggestion:

- put the camera on a tripod
- use blu-tack or something to stick a piece of mirror or cooking foil in front of the flash, angled to bounce the flash to one side of the camera, forwards but outside the field of view of the camera lens.
- Stick a big piece of white card on an easel or something, several feet away, so that it catches the reflected flash and sends diffused light back into the picture. The goal is to avoid lighting up nearby snowflakes, but still light up the middle ground.

Have fun.
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Postby ruggie » Wed 4 Jan 2006 18:46 GMT

Here's a simpler idea, Liz:

Do you have a garage looking out over the street (or any other interesting view)? If so, open the garage door and stand inside, as far back as you can without the opening becoming a frame for the picture. (Move the car out into the snow so that you can try this!) Now the nearest snowflakes will be much further away, so they shouldn't send back blinding reflections.

Now here's an attempt to explain in simple terms why this works:

It's worth understanding that if you double the distance between the flash and what it is illuminating, you quarter the brightness. If you look at the snowflakes in your pic, you'll get a feeling for this. The nearest ones are reflecting so brightly that they 'flare'. (It's easy to see why - the rays hitting a snowflake three feet away will cover an area 2 snowflakes x 2 snowflakes square six feet away - four times as big a surface, so only a quarter as brightly lit).

This is why, if you want to take a photo of the folks around the table at Christmas or a birthday party, you should stand as far back as you can and use the zoom to fill the picture. If the table is 9 feet long and you stand 3 feet beyond one end, the far end is 12 feet away - so the guy at the end is 4 times as far away as the one nearest to you (4x4 equals 16 times less light - way beyond the ability of any camera, film or digital, to cope with). If you stand 9 feet away, the far end of the table is 18 feet away, only 2 times as far as the near end. (2x2 equals 4 times less light, which is a lot better, but still likely to give the foreground guy a 'fromage blanc' face and make the furthest one pretty dim. To do better, you need a flash unit that can be angled up to bounce off the ceiling and scatter light evenly across the whole table. This should still give deep shadows under eyebrows and chins, but light-coloured walls reflect some light which helps to fill them in a bit.)
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Postby Purley » Sat 7 Jan 2006 15:58 GMT

I was just using my Nikon Coolpix 4100 digital camera. I will have to remember that about opening the garage door, though. I had never tried taking a picture of it snowing before. Mind you, living where I do I will probably get a lot more opportunities.
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Postby ruggie » Sun 8 Jan 2006 17:38 GMT

I forgot to ask, Liz - what program did you use to blot out the reflections? Most programs with that capability are expensive, so if you have found a reasonably-priced one, that will probably interest a lot of people.
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Postby ikennedy » Sun 8 Jan 2006 19:17 GMT

Picasa 2 by google, can do that as well.
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Postby ruggie » Mon 9 Jan 2006 19:00 GMT

Picasa 2 by google, can do that as well

Can't see how. All the tuning except the spotlight/colour effect applies to the whole image. What Liz seems to have done is use a clone tool, which Picasa2 doesn't have.

....or can you fake it using the redeye elimination tool?
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Postby CustomStrat » Tue 10 Jan 2006 04:07 GMT

A tripod to be sure. But I think if I were shooting snow at night I'd want to avoid using flash and look out for areas of strong ambient lighting; streetlights, houselights through a window, car headlamps...
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