Fairy lights are no longer used once a year, then boxed away until next year’s festive season. They’ve become a staple in home decor. Some people use them to light up staircases, others surround their mirrors with fairy lights, and glass vases and/or bottles can be decoratively illuminated with miniature lights. No matter where you choose to use fairy lights, they always make spectacular backdrops for photos provided you have the right camera settings to cope with brightness without creating blur or knocking everything out of focus.
The 3 Camera Settings Needed to Snap Photos with Lights in the Background
1. Manual mode or Pro mode
When backgrounds are busy, manual mode is best. It bypasses all the presets that can lead to carnage in photos. It lets you slow the shutter speed down to capture illuminations in full detail, alter ISO settings to compensate for light loss, and vary the aperture to suit what’s being captured.
There is one drawback. The slower the shutter speed, the more likely it is that the least bit of motion when the shutter drops, will cause motion blur. The best way to prevent blurring is to use a tripod or something like to set the camera on so that you aren’t relying on keeping your hands steady. Just the motion of tapping a phone screen to take the photo can be enough to cause blurriness.
If a tripod or stand isn’t an option, have somewhere to sit the camera and use the time delay feature. Most smartphones have a timer in the camera app, as do most models of digital cameras.
2. Shoot with a Low ISO setting
Digital cameras and most camera applications on smartphones have a setting to adjust the ISO. The ISO is a numerical value that indicates the sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the higher the sensitivity. Naturally, to capture light in a photo, you don’t want the lens to be too sensitive, otherwise, you’ll be capturing what photographers refer to as digital noise. It’s a grainy picture with details you’d likely rather not have.
When shooting indoors, anything under 800 is usually ideal. The higher ISO settings are generally for shooting outdoors at night, or when it’s low light, such as on cloudy days. For shooting indoors with light in the background, use a really low ISO setting. Start with 50 to 100, do some test shots, and increase from there. When you start noticing pictures becoming grainy, drop it down a notch.
3. Increase the aperture
Think of the aperture as the “pupil” of your lens. Just like the human eye will adjust in response to light, so too can your camera’s lens. The wider the aperture, the more light it lets in. Lower apertures create darker photos.
The settings available differ by device. On a smartphone camera app, typical settings are f1.5 and f2.4. The equivalents on a DSLR would be f/8 and f/22. The f before the number represents the f-stop. F1.5 is ideal when you want a single subject in focus. The background is more blurred, keeping the emphasis on the subject of the photo. On a higher f2.5 setting, it brings the background into focus. Use this when you want to take group photos with lights in the background.
With the settings adjusted in the camera app, you’ll be able to get more subjects in focus and create appealing illusions with blurring happening in all the right spots, putting an emphasis on the background lights.