Again - I am new to the SLR world so you might have to dumb down your answers for me. Last night I photographed the buildings and christmas lights in our city center. Here are the settings that I used and the reasons that I choose to use them.
- I used a tripod. - ISO: 200 because the lower the ISO the less chance of noise in low light
- F22: because I was going for the largest depth of field possible. In other words I wanted the lights in the foreground to be in focus as well as the building in the background.
- Shutter speeds between 3 and 30 seconds depending on how much light was around.
- Metering: I mostly switched between spot and matrix until I got the desired results.
- WB - Auto
1 - I was pleased with the results but I know that I could do more. First of all based upon what I was shooting and my goal to have as much in focus as possible do the above settings sound OK? Is F22 too big? What settings would you use on the D50 for the same night of shooting?
2 - I really struggled with WB. I had read that Auto is not good enough when photographing Christmas Lights but it seemed like as I took test photos in other modes they all looked worse. What would you have your D50's WB set on for this type of shooting?
Dan, I would shoot as near to twilight as possible to get the best detail in the buidings as possible and to even out the exposure. Definately shoot with a tripod. You might consider shooting with RAW in order to play with WB later; you might also try an incandescent balance. I also would recommend shooting in the neighborhood of f/5.6 or f/8. Too long an exposure and the lights may be over exposed loosing definition and shape.
It's hard to say without seeing the results but if white balance is your main problem, try using tungsten as most of the light available at night will be that or sodium. Both of these light sources will make your pictures appear brown/yellow if you have your camera set to anything close to daylight or flash.
Also - It sounds like the consensus is that instead of using such a high Aperture setting I should try not go go above around 8 or so. Could someone explain why. Again my entry-level knowledge tells me that the higher the aperture setting the more in focus everything will be. So why would I not choose the highest F number if I wanted everything in focus.
I believe what you guys are saying I am just trying to understand the idea behind it.
Ok, let me try and understand your problem. You want to photograph Christmas lights at night as opposed to twilight and you want architechtural features in focus too. Firstly I think you are right to use a tripod and as the D50 has no mirror lock up (big shame on Nikon) I would suggest the use of a remote release. As for sensor noise check you have the long exposure setting "on" to reduce the effects of aliasing or whatever it does. If auto WB is working for you, stick with it, I would use tungsten and correct colour casts later. One reason for upping the ISO will be to increase the shutter speed as most of what looks to be out of focus, especially when shooting outdoors, will be object motion caused by wind/breeze. As for the lens aperture, most all lenses will suffer when used either wide open or closed down.
and see what kind of DOF values different focal lengts and aperetures give. Choose D70 from the camera list as D50 is not listed, they share same sized sensor so results are valid.
This page explains difraction and gives good example of how diffraction can detoriate image sharpness. Diffraction starts to soften images when aperetures beyond ~F11 are used so dont use them unless that extra dof is relly needed to get a good picture.
I am going to have the opportunity to take this photo again tonight. Any additional suggestions? I am going to try and take the photo from closer to the ground instead of on the top of my tripod in order to make the ground seem closer and the train passing by taller. I will try keeping it under F11 or so.
Please check out the photo below and thanks for any suggestions! Dan