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DC’s iconic cherry blossoms are just around the corner!

And they look *magical* at night. Don’t miss out on this amazing photo opportunity just because you weren’t comfortable with night time photography!

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Here are a few tips for practicing your low light and nighttime shots of the cherry blossoms:

Open up your aperture. If you’re working on making a single blossom or branch the main subject of your photo, using a wide aperture will help make it stand out against the noisy background. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, but details can get lost with all the extra branches and blooms in the background.

• If you’re having trouble focusing and your lens seems go in and out of focus, use AF area mode “spot” or “single point”. Put the point over a place in your photo with contrast. Your lens needs to find edges to focus on, and it can’t if there is no contrast. If you’re aiming it at the sky, it won’t be able to find an edge because it’s just darkness. You can choose a point on the horizon, press halfway down to lock the focus, then recompose your photo by tilting your camera slightly up, down, or to the side. If you move forward or backward, you’ll lose the focus.

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Turn down your flash. If your photo is *almost* perfect but the blossoms are just too washed out due to the powerful flash, you can adjust the brightness of the flash. Most cameras have this option in their quick menu. You’re looking for a little downward lightening bolt arrow accompanied by +/-

Get in close. Closer! You may be tempted to take photos of entire branches as your “close up” of the blossoms. These tiny delicate flowers look beautiful when photographed in clusters too. I like to use my 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for these shots.

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• Use a long shutter speed (10+ seconds). You’ll have to use a tripod, or press your camera against something hard for stability – think railings, boulders, or sit on the ground and press your camera against your knees. The extra amount of time for light to come in will really brighten your shots, and if there’s a breeze creating little waves in the tidal basin, you should see some pretty neat movement in the water.

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