New Year's Eve Photography Tips

Take Your Holiday Photography to the Next Level!

New Year’s Eve is by far the world’s biggest party - think about how the media strives to connect the dropping of the Ball in New York’s Times Square with the other parties going on all over the country -regardless of the time zone! Big parties come with a lot of expectations and a big desire by party guests to makethe most of the evening. It’s up to you to capture these highly celebratory moments and still partake in the fun.



1. Take Outside Shots

New Year's Eve Fireworks

Depending on where you live, taking New Year’s Eve photos outside will give you an extra variable on what to shoot and when. Many cities have major outside parties and celebrations (Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, New York, London, Sydney, etc.) and if you want to experience a different type of New Year’s Eve party, then make sure you are in one of these cities. If you’re not, there can always be something interesting and unexpected. That’s what you’re looking for when you get down to it - something unexpected and memorable. You’ll want a fast zoom lens and use a high ISO (like 400 or 800) for maximum flexibility and versatility; avoid using a flash, as people are having a good time and might not want to know they’re being photographed. They’ll thank you in the New Year, though.



2. Experiment with Angles

New Years Eve Party

To elevate your compositions from run-of-the-mill party shots, radically experiment with angles. As New Year’s is a no-holds-bar celebration (or at least most of the time it is), you can really push the limit with the compositions and angles (really high, extremely low, Dutch tilts, etc.); whatever you think will add that extra oomph to a shot. One beauty of digital photography is that you can always immediately review, tweak, or delete your photos as you take them. Unorthodox camera angles and posing is part of embracing the spirit of the ringing in the New Year, so don’t hold back… everyone you’re partying with will want to be included once you show the first edgy, experimental image. At that point all you have to do is keep the camera roving.



3. Use the Entire Frame

Young couple celebrating new years eve and having fun

One of the signs of a more seasoned photographic eye is the composition, and utilizing the entire frame is part of that growth process (you can use negative space techniques, but that’s a little ineffective when you’re at a New Year’s Eve party). When you fill the entire frame with your subject you increase the dynamism and potency of the subject and the spirit of the occasion. In the photo to the right, notice how the raised glasses added a joyous feeling to the double portrait? It works because the glasses act as pillars at the edge of frame to push your eye toward the two people. If there was more (empty) space on the edges, the photo would not be nearly as effective. As a simple “cheers” photo, you couldn’t ask for a better one.



4. Capture the Atmosphere

Crowd of people dancing in a club on new years eve

At most parties, people have come to let loose and burn off some steam, and that’s doubly true on New Year’s Eve. The end of the year, end of the winter holidays and the ritual of “making a New Year’s Resolution” gives people license to act a fool “one last time” before they get “serious.” To amplify the action, employ photographic techniques that aren’t typically used for indoor situations, like panning or zooming-in while you release the shutter (use a shutter speed of maybe 1/15) to get a blur effect as well as the interesting effect of zooming the lens during a shot. Dragging the shutter will give you a dynamic image too. The trick is to use the mechanical aspects of the camera to give you a non-traditional shot while you’re photographing people having a great time.



5. Use High Speed Sync Flash

People dancing in the night club

Using a High-speed sync flash (preferably a cabled one, but any Speedlite flash unit will do) at New Year’s Eve party with the vibrant lighting and colorful decorations, will create a psychedelic quality in your photographs. One of the more interesting and creative uses of High Speed Sync, in a party situation, is to use the Rear Curtain Sync mode; which is very effective when capturing moving subjects and using longer shutter speeds. The result is a flash-frozen object, accompanied with light trails and motion blur ghosting. Flash-frozen moving objects (e.g. people dancing) will add to the image’s expressive quality and vibrancy. You’ll want to experiment with this technique BEFORE the party to the get knack of it. Then you can use it more creatively and deliberately.



6. Photograph Fireworks

New Year's Eve Fireworks

Fireworks bring a cascade of emotions to nearly every observer, so you’ll want to make these images count. Use a tripod and a remote release device (cable or RC unit) to ensure that your camera is rock-solid when releasing the shutter. Use “bulb” mode to hold the shutter open from the moment the firework takes off to the moment the last fire trail disappears (maybe 4 to 5 seconds). Framing your photograph will be the hardest part, because you have to guess ahead of time where the firework will explode. Use a zoom lens, like 80mm – 200mm to give you the best options, but bear in mind at 200mm you have to KNOW where the firework will go off to capture the shot. Since the shutter speed is going to be fairly long, you’ll want to set the aperture between f/8 and f/16.



Conclusion

As already mentioned, the exposure is going to be dictated by what images you’re trying to capture (e.g. a small aperture is best for fireworks, but a large aperture is good for the indoor photos with rear curtain sync). Likewise with your shutter speed, use bulb when shooting the fireworks, but use shutter speeds of 1/60th or faster for capturing the party explosions (like when the clock strikes midnight) and for rear curtain sync flash photography. You’ll want to keep the ISO at 100 for the least digital noise. However, depending on the ambient light level, you might have to increase the ISO to 400 when taking outdoor photos at night.

Outside of your camera, the equipment you should have to photographically capture New Year’s Eve with more creativity and flexibility is a Speedlite (for High Speed Flash Sync techniques), a medium range zoom (28mm – 80mm) lens, a tripod and a remote shutter release (if you are photographing fireworks). Extra memory cards are always good to have, because you can load up the card fairly quickly based on the length of the party and what’s planned for the evening.

New Year’s Eve has many opportunities for you to try out photographic techniques that you don’t typically get to use – like Rear Curtain Sync. The key to making this evening work photographically is to participate in the festivities WHILE you sneak candid photos. You don’t want to have too many formally posed images; the night is about breaking loose and shedding the old, so people want to be outrageous with their fun – that means being as unobtrusive as possible. You have two jobs on New Year’s Eve – get the photos you want and have fun.

Top 10 Tips on Pet Photography

1. Start with Your Pet’s Personality

Before you start photographing your pet ask yourself ‘what sets it apart from other animals?’ Think about what type of personality it has and then attempt to capture some of that in your shots. For example if everyone knows your pet as a sleepy, lazy or placid little thing set up your photo shoot around it’s bed or where it goes after a meal to lie in the sun and you’ll have every chance of capturing a shot that sums your pet right up. Alternatively if your pet is hyperactive, inquisitive and always on the move it might be better to do your shoot at a local park where it’s racing around, jumping for balls or playing with other animals.

 

 

2. Think about Context

In choosing the location to photograph your pet you might want to consider a variety of other factors also. For starters choose a place where your pet will be comfortable and at ease. Also consider the familiarity of the location and the emotions that it will evoke in you as the pets owner. For example you might have a place that you and your pet have had some special moments together that will mean a lot in the future as you look back over your shots. Lastly consider the background of your shots. Ultimately you don’t want your backgrounds to be distracting from your photo – sometimes the best locations are the plainest ones – a large patch of green grass, a well lit room with white walls and plain carpet etc can be ideal. Of course this can also be tool plain and sterile – my motto is that if the different elements in the background of the shot don’t add to it avoid them.

3. Get in Close

Pets come in all shapes and sizes but in most cases they are smaller than a human and as a result they tend to end up getting a little lost in photos unless you make an effort to get up close to them. Of course getting close is not always easy, especially if you have a pet that likes to move around, but it’s worth making the effort as the detail that can be gained and the personality that can be captured by an up close and personal photo shoot with a pet can really lift a photo to a new level. If you can’t physically get close to your pet get your camera equipped with a zoom lens. The added benefit of a long focal length is that it will help with isolating your pet in terms of depth of field (ie give you a nice blurry background so that your pet is center of attention with no distractions).

 

4. Get On Their Level

Get down on your pets level where you can look upon them eye to eye. Images taken by a photographer standing up and looking down on their level not only leave you too far away from your subject but they also mean the shots end up having a very ‘human perspective’. Getting down on your pets level means you enter their world and get a glimpse of what life looks like from their angle – you’ll be impressed by the results as they are more personal and have a real element of intimacy.

5. Mix Up Your Framing

Pets, like human subjects’ look different from different angles and framing them in a variety of ways can bring out different perspectives to your shots. In your photo shoot take some tightly cropped facial shots (even focussing right in on single features like eyes, noses, ears, whiskers etc) but also make sure you take three quarter body shots as well as full body shots. In this way you end up with a series of shots that give viewers of your photos a full perspective on who your pet is.

6. Lighting

Light makes any photograph what it is and when it comes to pets it’s especially important. In general I wouldn’t recommend using a flash as they tend to distract pets and in some cases will even frighten them. The other issue with flashes is that they can create spooky red-eye problems with some animals (in the same way they do with humans). Natural light is a much better option than using a flash and so where possible outside photo shoots tend to work best (or at least in a well lit window inside). The only exception I would give for using a flash is when your pet has very dark (or black) fur as it tends to absorb light and a flash can add detail. With dark fury pets you might want to slightly over expose your images for this same reason. Alternatively with white pets you run the risk of over exposing shots so try to find a location out of direct sunlight and definitely avoid a flash.

7. Include People

One of the best things you can do to add context to a shot is to include the special people in the life of your pet in the image. Shots with the owner or other family members interacting with your pet can make the images incredibly special for years to come. You might like to try posed shots but sometimes it’s the candid shots of owner and pet at play (or snoozing together in front of a fire) that really capture the character of the pet and evoke emotion.

8. Freeze the Action

Many pets present a challenge to photographers because they are active and always on the move. The key with any subject that’s on the move is to freeze their action by using a fast shutter speed. Most digital cameras these days will allow you to shoot in full manual mode if you feel confident to get the mix between shutter and aperture right – alternatively you can work in shutter priority mode where you set the shutter speed and the camera automatically does the rest by picking a good aperture to work with your shutter speed. The last alternative is to use ‘sports’ mode which will mean the camera will select the fastest shutter speed possible for your situation. Once you’ve got your shutter speed nice and fast make sure your camera is always at the ready so you can anticipate the actions of your pet. If they are a fast mover you might also want to consider shooting in continuous mode (burst mode) to take a quick series of shots in a row. This can also lead to a wonderful sequence of shots that work well together.

9. Be Playful

Pets can be playful little critters and rather than attempting to contain this to get them posed for that special shot it’s often very effective to go with their playfulness and make it a central feature of your image. Include their toys, stimulate them to look longingly into your camera by holding a special treat above your head or take a picture with them sitting on top of you mid wrestle etc. Make your photo shoot a fun experience for both you and your pet and your shots are likely to reflect it.

10. Catch them Unawares

Posed shots can be fun and effective but one thing I love to do (whether it be with animals or people) is to photograph them candidly paparazzi style. I have very fond memories of stalking a friend’s dog as he played in a back yard one day. I took shots while he dug up flowers, as he buried a bone, as he fell chased a bee around and ask he sat contentedly with his head sticking out of his dog house. The whole time I photographed him he was barely aware of my presence so the shots were very natural without me distracting the dog from his ‘business’.

Update – 11. Try a Wide Angle Lens

One of the techniques I’ve experimented with lately is using a wider angle lens. This allows you to get in close (point 3) but also fit in a lot of the pet. The other benefit of it is that using a wider angle lens will often give your image a little distortion that will give your image a new creative and fun perspective. Read more on Using Wide Angle Lens Distortion Creatively.

Photography Tips With Children & Pets

As we all know, photographing children can be very challenging. It is tough enough just to keep them in sharp focus. Who in their right mind would complicate the task even further by adding pets and flash lighting to the mix? You should!  Adding the right amount of flash at the correct angle can turn an ordinary snapshot into a work of art.

Two Speedlights Used

120mm lens, ISO 400, F6.3 x 1/200 sec., WB 7000K. Feathering the Main light evenly lights both subjects with flash.

Select a Familiar Environment

The photograph of the three year old girl and her dog was shot in their back yard. Children and animals are most comfortable in a familiar environment. Most photographers think a beautiful location is the answer to great portraits—wrong! Relaxed and comfortable subjects are the key.

Popular scenic locations are always overrun with lots of people and too many photographers. Who can relax under those conditions? Remember– your subject is the star of the photograph, not the background.

This article demonstrates the following techniques:

  •  Underexposing the Background for Drama
  •  Multiple Speedlights
  •  Line of Sight Communication
  •  Feathering a Light Source
  •  Flash-Fill
  •  Inverse Square Law

How the Subject was Lit:

The background was deliberately underexposed one stop to emphasize the subjects and add drama.

Feathering the Light

Lighting setup for the above photo.

Main light (B) was placed into an Umbrella Softbox six feet from the dog, just outside of the camera frame. The Umbrella Softbox, attached to a lightstand, was handheld by the child’s mother above the subjects’ heads and feathered (angled) slightly left of the child (see diagram). This technique evenly lights both subjects, since a light source is brighter in the center. The dog was lit by the dimmer edge of the light source and the child was illuminated by the bright center.

Speedlight B was set to ½ power.

Inverse Square Law

Fill light (A) is an on-camera Speedlight with a medium-sized diffuser attached. Its job is to add a little detail into dark shadows. The power was also set to ½ power. Why?  Since the fill light was much further from the subjects than the main light, the power had to be set high enough to brighten the shadows.

The Inverse Square Law tells us that F8 (the distance between the Umbrella Softbox & midway point between our subjects) is a little over 3.5 stops brighter than F28.

Calculate light to subject distance in F-Stops (2’, 2.8’, 4’, 5.6’, 8’, 11’, 16’, 22’ etc.) and this will help you set the correct power settings on your Speedlights. For example: Move your light from 4’ to 5.6’ and you lose 1 F-Stop in power, move from 4’ to 22’ and you lose 5 F-Stops in power.

Fill Light A was approximately 3.5 stops less bright than main light B. It brightened the dark shadows on the dog and girl slightly.

Knowing photographic math helps, but don’t sweat it! In reality, shoot a test and adjust your power settings accordingly.

“Line of Sight Communication” is built into most modern Speedlights

Rotate the head of the Speedlight toward the subject. Sensors must see each other without obstructions.

No radio slaves were needed for this photo. “Line of Sight Communication” – the system that is built into modern Speedlights, made both Speedlights fire simultaneously. It works flawlessly when used correctly. You must make sure that the Slave Speedlight sensor is aimed at the Master Speedlight’s sensor. The Master Speedlight is on the camera and the Slave Speedlight is off the camera. The Speedlight’s adjustable head makes this system of lighting possible! Point the light at the subject and rotate the sensors toward each other.

Note! It is critical that any modifier attached to the Speedlight not obstruct the sensor.

Light Modifiers are used to Soften Harsh Direct Flash

Speedlight modifiers used: Diffusion Mitt – left. Umbrella Softbox – right. Handheld attached to lightstand and used as boom.

Manual Mode is Usually Best

The Speedlights and camera were set to manual mode. Manual mode gives the photographer maximum control and the results are consistent shot-to-shot.  However, if I was chasing this three year old around the yard it would be best to switch the Speedlights to ETTL. (That article is in the works, so stay tuned.)

One Speedlight Used

200mm lens, ISO 400, WB 7200K, F5 x 1/200sec.

Flash-Fill from the Camera

Lighting setup for the above photo. Ceiling blocks unwanted top light. Subject lit by flattering side light.

The photograph of this beautiful young girl was far less complicated. She was positioned on a bench at her home under a covered patio. The ceiling above her head shielded unwanted top light from striking the subject. Light from the side is more flattering than overhead light. It creates a more three-dimensional appearance.

The only problem was that the shadows created by the open skylight were too dark. The simple solution was to add a little Flash-Fill from the camera’s position to lighten the dark shadows.  A medium sized diffuser was attached to the on- camera Speedlight to soften the flash. Speedlight set to ETTL -2 FEC.

Lighting setup for the above photo. Ceiling blocks unwanted top light. Subject lit by flattering side light.

(A) Diffusion Mitt attached to on-camera Speedlight to soften Flash-Fill

About the Author:
John Rogers is an award winning photographer from Boise, Idaho and owner of prolightsecrets.com.

TOP 10 PHOTOS OF 2012

Photographers from all over the world sent in hundreds of thousands of incredible images to the photography network this year. With careful consideration, we chose these as the year’s best. This is a list of some of the most compelling and popular photos of the year 2012.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these photos, please tell us which one you like best and why on the PictureCorrect Facebook Page.

1. “Following the Sun” captured by Irina Oreshina

photos of the year

Click Image to See More From Irina Oreshina (Nikkor AF 50 mm F/1.4; 1/80 ; f/4.5 ; ISO 400)

2. “Perfect Cone Active Volcano” captured by Jay Besa

landscape photo of the year

Click Image to See More From Jay Besa

3. “Penitentiary Hospital Wing” captured by Daniel Leis

hdr interior photo of the year

Click Image to See More From Daniel Leis

4. “Cyprus Wedding” captured by Vavinov Alex

wedding photo of the year

Click Image to See More From Vavinov Alex

5. “Singapore Central Business District” by Jet Rabe

cityscape of the year

Click Image to See More From Jet Rabe

6. “The Father & The Son” captured by Supriya Mukherjee

story telling photo of the year

Click Image to See More From Supriya Mukherjee

7. “Marble” captured by Jirina Kantova

high speed photos of the year

Click Image to See More From Jirina Kantova

8. “The Lookouts” captured by David Hobcote

nature photo of the year

Click Image to See More From David Hobcote

9. “Lunch Distress” captured by Thomas Jeppesen

black and white photography of the year

Click Image to See More From Thomas Jeppesen

10. “Vahine” captured by Heitiare Teriinatoofa

silhouette of the year

Click Image to See More From Heitiare Teriinatoofa

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