The holidays are coming and with them come a lot of photo ops. Want to take them up a notch? How about getting a little star burst on your Christmas tree lights or Menorah candles? This is a fun little trick that will give your holiday photos a little extra sparkle.
It is important that you have a tripod for this, as we will be working with longer exposures. You will also need a camera where you can control the exposure, like a DSLR or a bridge point and shoot.
Now, in a semi-dim room with candles or Christmas lights lit, position the tripod where you would like it. Now we fiddle with the exposure. My usual starting place is f/16, ISO 200, shutter speed 15 seconds--see why we need the tripod? I also will put my camera on a 2 second delay, so when I hit the shutter, it isn't affected by any movement of the camera when i push the button.
(If you do not own a tripod, you can also set your camera on a table or s chair or the arm of a couch. Just make sure that wherever you place it, it will remain 100% still, and is also 100% safe!)
The critical part here is the f/16. (Go higher if you want or can! Mine were shot at F22) You need to be able to close your aperture as tightly as it will go or very close. (Some lenses can close up to f/32, some only go to f/16. The point is to close it up tight.) Fiddle with your shutter speed and ISO to get the right balance of light, but keep your aperture closed. Depending on your camera, you may have to have a longer shutter speed, if your camera can not handle higher ISO's well. It is the high aperture that gets you the star burst, so this is pretty much non-negotiable.
Another key point is to use the self-timer. Even if you have your camera on a tripod, when you hit the shutter button, there will be just a tiny bit of shake or movement. If you use the 2 second self timer, that allows you to press the shutter and move your hand away from the camera, so nothing is touching it while the camera is taking the picture.
Below is a pull back shot of the tree lights, with the up close shot being above. (In this small size, the full shot won't have the same punch with the lights as it would in a larger image.)
My settings for the image above. :)
Using the technique above here are pictures from last Christmas