The Science Behind The Perfect Photo of Christmas Decorations - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

The Science Behind The Perfect Photo of Christmas Decorations

Posted: 11/27/2017 22:25:00 -05:00 Updated:

It's that time of year when we get out the lights and decorations, and if all goes well, we end up with bright lights and no broken bones. Now, if your display is really good, you may want to share some photos with friends and family, or better yet, grab a snap of that amazing house down the street (My preferred method).

You may not be very happy with your pictures though and they will just not look as nice as what you saw while taking the photos. The reason for this is that you have amazing eyes that can make out some details even in near darkness, while still seeing the bright bulbs in the trees and on the house. Scientists call this a wide dynamic range.

Here's the problem though, your camera does not see nearly as well as your eyes. It sees a much narrower range of light levels. You can adjust your camera to see the lights, but everything else will be dark, or adjust for the shadows and find all the lights are blown out! 

Getting A Good Photo Is Possible.

There's a trick to getting a really nice photo of your (or in my case, the neighbors) decorations. You have to take the photo when the light difference between lights and surrounding areas is less than it is at night. If you go outside about 10-20 minutes after sunset, there will still be a little light in the sky, but it will be dark enough for the lights to show up beautifully.

This is a trick every professional photographer knows and it will work with an iPhone camera or a fancy DSLR. If you have the DSLR, choose it, because it will have a better dynamic range than a smart-phone camera. Most professionals will start shooting about 6-7 minutes after sunset and stop in about 20 minutes. Then they pick the best shot. 

That's all there is to it, and you can see how well it works by looking at the photo above. I took it last weekend in Crisfield, Maryland. Note how much better a little light in the sky looks, rather than total darkness.

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