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How to take best pictures on Diwali night

It’s dark, the sky is filled with fireworks, the clothes are sparkly. How do you take the best pictures possible? Here’s help.

brunch Updated: Oct 27, 2013 11:25 IST
Shreya Sethuraman
Diwali

Diwali is not just a time for the victory of good over evil, it’s a commemoration of all that is bright. It’s about meeting loved ones you haven’t seen in months, getting together to gossip, catching up with friends and family and passing on the love. Everyone looks their best. The rangoli is fresh, the diyas cast a soft glow on everything. The mood is upbeat, even grandparents are buoyed up. You want to freeze the moment forever.

But for many of us, the magic spell is broken once the pictures reveal themselves on our digital cameras. The brightly-lit house and verandah look dull, not glowy. The phuljari is just a burst of yellow, lacking the sparkle that your eyes could see. The bright pink of your girlfriend’s outfit (and her bright smile) get lost in the low light (or show up garishly under the flash). The fireworks that lit up the sky pale in pictures. And the family looks blurry in every group photo! So how can you do better? Follow our simple tips.

Dinesh Khanna used a Canon 5D Mark II camera, a 24-105mm lens and an ISO of 250

Try using a tripod
Sure, it’s clunky, but it’s such a difference-maker. When you’re handling the camera with your hands (and especially if you’re shooting in high-definition), even the slightest movement will make your photographs blurry – bad news when it comes to shooting still objects, people, or even firecrackers. “If you want the picture to look exactly like how it looks in real life (the anaar going up in flames, the chakri spinning dizzily), you need to keep the camera on a steady platform,” says fashion photographer Siddharth Lalchandani. “However, if you want to capture the whole event in a series of steps (from the time the cracker is lit to the time it erupts), keep your hands steady and click away!” But no tripod doesn’t mean you’ve lost every chance to take a good photograph. “If there’s no tripod, keep your camera on a ledge to steady it. And if there’s no stable surface, take a deep breath, hold your breath and click. There’s no mystery in such photography, ” says Dinesh Khanna, trustee of Nazar Foundation, which promotes photography as an art form.

For this picture, photographer Rajiv Iyer used a Canon EOS 5D with an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens. The ISO was 200 and he used no flash

Think about your compositions
This means you should try to work out exactly what you want to shoot, especially since a million things are happening all at once on Diwali night. By the time you decide that it’s the 10,000 ladi you want to capture on your camera (and not your cousins playing in a corner or your aunt lighting a diya in the distance), you’d have already lost precious seconds. “Envisage the frame you want to capture and position yourself before the fireworks are set off,” says Rajiv Iyer, one of the founding members of the Delhi Photo Enthusiast Guild. “This way, less time is wasted during the actual moment of the shoot,” he adds. Also, avoid smoky photographs. Once the firecrackers have exploded, smoke will rise. This may lead to hazy images. Find a spot where the smoke blows away from your camera.

Use right shutter speed and ISO
Shutter speed is the duration a camera’s shutter is held open when taking a photo. This allows you to manipulate how much light reaches the camera’s sensor, and how bright or dark your image will be. ISO, or International Organisation for Standardisation, and its speeds (100, 200, 400 etc) are used to indicate the amount of light necessary to give proper exposures.

If you want to catch the mood of a well-lit room with your family members, “use a high ISO setting – 1600 and above,” says Dinesh Khanna. But if you want to shoot the fireworks, which last barely a few seconds, you should choose a lower ISO setting. “An ISO 100 or ISO 200 helps to get a clear picture of the movement of the fireworks,” says Iyer.

While night photography can be a bit intimidating, it’s not that tough to get the best frame. Just follow these steps, take a deep breath and smile, you’re on camera!

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From HT Brunch, October 27

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