Friday, August 8, 2008

Lights, Camera, Action!



A common question I am constantly asked is how I take my night photographs.

First off I do nothing fancy or elaborate regarding the lighting of my props. I use off the shelf floods from Lowes or Home Depot. My lighting scheme this year was to use one floodlight (the colored floods were 85 watt and the clear floods were 100 watt) for each group of three creatures. One floodlight for the zombies, one for the witches, one for the skeletons and one dedicated to the demon reapers.

The one thing I usually try to do that is somewhat different than others is to place a floodlight behind the props, this acts as a backlight and greatly enhances the fog making it more visible at night.

The photography aspect is equally as simple.

I always use a tripod at night. It’s impossible to hold a camera still enough for a long exposure shot.

I also try to be aware of the position of fog or other lighting sources when I take the photograph. In many cases I will dim the floods by placing a clear plastic container in front of the floodlight to diffuse the light.

I always bracket my exposures, usually taking 3 to 5 photos of each setup.
I take a lot of photographs. My shooting ratio is about 1 to 10 for nighttime shots meaning that for every 10 pictures I take maybe one will be useable.

I try to shoot at dusk. Taking night shots before it is totally dark allows the sky to be captured in some beautiful colors. Shooting at dusk also allows for some interesting silhouettes especially trees. This year I had five nights to shoot at dusk. There was about 30 minutes each evening where the lighting was ideal for some interesting night shots.

This year I probably took close to 2,000 digital photos. Two thousand photos may sound extreme but at a 10 to 1 shooting ratio that’s only about 200 useable photos in the end.

Finally, I use Picasa 2 photo software for correcting exposure, color balance, contrast cropping, and resizing. Picasa is a free download from Google. It’s easy and proves to be a great way to organize my photos.

Add a little bit of luck and that’s how I light and photograph my displays.


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