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Around the Campfire
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Around the Campfire

If you're heading out for a weekend of camping, don't put the camera away after dark. The rich and ruddy glow of a campfire can be deeply atmospheric. The festive mood of people relaxing around the flames is ideal for informal portraits, and the flames provide enough light for handheld portraits—just remember to set an ISO of 800 or 1000. Also remember to turn the flash off, otherwise the light from it will wash out the warm look of the fire.

Be careful not to include too much of the fire itself when you take your meter reading because the bright flames will fool your camera into grossly underexposing your subjects. Instead, zoom in (or use your center-weighted metering feature to take a close-up reading) and take a reading directly from faces. Use your exposure-lock feature (on most cameras all you have to do is to hold the shutter-release button halfway down) to lock that reading and then recompose and shoot.

Be aware that the exposure-lock and focus-lock features are linked on many cameras (in other words, if you lock exposure, you also lock focus), which means that you may find that when you take a close-up meter reading your camera has also locked focus. In most cases, however, you will still be able to zoom out to recompose the scene without losing your point of sharp focus. Read your manual for more specific guidance.

In any event, be sure that your subjects' faces are evenly lighted by the fire, and don't be shy about asking them to turn toward the fire until the lighting is more even. If there are any lanterns or candles nearby, arrange them to provide additional fill-in lighting.

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