Outdoor Education: A Trick for Taking Better Campfire Photographs

Outdoor Education: A Trick for Taking Better Campfire Photographs

Dick Moss, Editor, PE Update.com

Sitting around the campfire might be the best part of your outdoor excursion, but getting photographs of the faces around the fire can be a difficult. The problem is that there is usually too little ambient light to get a normal photo. And using your camera's flash is no answer. While a flash photo might capture the faces around the fire, it will probably wash out the image of the fire itself.

The Problem With a Slower Shutter Speed

The first step towards getting good campfire photos is to use a longer shutter speed. Many digital cameras have either a “night” or “manual” setting that allows you to slow the shutter speed.    

However, a problem with a longer exposure time (slower shutter speed) is that any camera movement while the shutter is open will cause the image to blur. You can try supporting the camera against a tree or rock, but preventing movement with a long exposure time and a hand-held camera is always difficult.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to reduce the jiggle with hand-held cameras for professional campfire photos.

Trick for Taking Campfire Photos

Set your desired exposure, place the camera on a tripod, rock or stump then frame your shot.

Then take the photo using it's built-in timer. The camera will count down for several seconds then release the shutter automatically, averting any movement of the camera while the shutter is open. It will also give you time to get into the photo if you want to be involved.

Ask your subjects not to move while the shutter is open.

Best Camera Angle
And what's the best location for the camera?  Down low, looking up at the faces of your subjects. Because people tend to look down at the fire, this perspective will usually show their eyes.

Don't Be Afraid to Experiment
You'll have to experiment to find the correct shutter speed, but that's what's great about digital cameras - you can check the photo immediately and if you don't like the result, just delete it and try again.

Reference: Bonnie Schiedel, “Take a Shot in the Dark.” Cottage Life, August 2007. www.cottagelife.com

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