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Digital photography hints

Getting good pictures of bling-stallations can be a bit of a challenge, so these few dos and don'ts might help:

Turn off flash
Make sure your camera does not have the flash or automatic flash options on. Using the flash causes the camera to see mainly the pool of light created by the flash, making the bling look dim.

Seeing in the dark
Housebling pictures look best when the installation is very bright, or where there are light sources nearby (other installations or street lighting) to give a hint of the shape and scale of the house. If you get a picture that looks like spots of light on a black background, try taking the photo at dusk so that the house becomes partially visible. This may help to improve the overall effect.

Camera shake
Your camera's shutter speed will be at its slowest in pitch darkness, so it will be very easy to get camera shake. And it's unlikely to be visible on the camera's display when you check the picture. Obviously, it's best to use a tripod, but if that's not possible, always use something to lean your camera on, or hands against, as you take the picture. Lamp posts, trees, walls, vehicles, sturdy friends, etc, will do nicely.

Take more than one picture
You've probably seen professional photographers at work, they take loads of shots of one subject, even when using film. Do the same: you can choose the best, and bin the rest later.

Take the picture at the camera's highest quality setting so that the maximum amount of visual information is present before you start manipulating the picture.

Working with the picture ­ work on a copy!
It's extremely advisable to make a copy of any file you intend to work on or enhance. Keep the original safe: it's easy to mess up!

Enhancing the picture
Unless it's a very bright housebling installation, you may find that the picture doesn't match up to what you saw. If you took the picture at the high quality setting, there's a chance that you can improve things. To do so, use a picture manipulation program. Adobe Photoshop is what the pros use, the popular Paintshop Pro isn't what the pros use, but it ­ and many other similar utilities and programs ­ will do the job for the purposes of You should experiment with the brightness, contrast and colour saturation controls to see if you get a better result. Don't 'wash out' a picture in an attempt to brighten it up. You can use the 'sharpen' option to get a bit more sparkle, but don't do this until after you have reduced the picture to its submission size (see below).

Picture file format
Most non-pro cameras create picture files in the JPEG compression format. Files in this format have the .jpg suffix. We require all submissions to be in this format.

Picture file size (kilobytes)
We request that submitted pictures should be no more than 400kb in file size.

Picture size (dimensions in pixels)
All images on a computer screen are composed of a matrix of picture cells (pixels). Computer monitors display at 72 pixels per inch (sometimes shown as 72ppi or 72dpi). Housblinger displays its submitted pictures at 360 pixels wide but recommends submissions to be 640 pixels wide.

Reducing your picture to 640 pixels wide
In your image manipulation program, go to the Image Size option. This produces a dialogue box allowing you to specify picture dimensions and picture resolution. Make sure the proportional scaling option is checked, so that when you reduce the width to 640 pixels, the height reduces in the same ratio. Ensure that the picture resolution is set to 72 pixels per inch (or 28 pixels per cm). At this point, you may find that the picture can be enhanced further by applying the 'sharpen' facility.

Now save the file. Most programs, at this stage, ask you whether you want to save the file at high quality or low. This directly affects file size, so you must choose 'low quality'. This is quite acceptable for on-screen viewing. By now, the picture file size should be in the region of 200kb. However, your image manipulation program will be indicating an un-compressed, working size. Now close the new file, and take a look at the file in its folder window. If you have your files listed with their details (not as icons), you will be able to see the file's size.

If the file size is still over 400kb, just check back through these instructions to see if you've missed anything.

It is possible, at this stage, to 'optimise' the picture further for the web. Optimisation makes the file size even less, without visible loss of quality, and makes pictures load quickly. If you want to have a go at this, find out how in your program's manual.

Learn more about digital photography
There's always more to learn! Why not take a look on Amazon and see if there's a book that will give you more than we're able to provide here...


•Send us your photos
Take a picture of your house in all its sparkling finery and email it to for free display on this site. Here's how...

Seen some excellent or excessive houseblinging? Take a snap and send it to us

•Send a pic from a mobile
It's simple, and here's how you do it...

Safe as houses
Here's some safety advice from Halifax General Insurance. And take a look at RoSPA's page on Christmas light safety.

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