Low light photography is much easier with some pre-planning. What kind of light will be there? When is the best time to take the photo? While you can’t choose the time of many images, subjects like night landscapes benefit from choosing the right time, like sunset for a warm glow, dusk for a blue tone or full night for really emphasizing any light sources.
Like all trades or actions, having the right tools makes low light photography much easier.
Prevent camera shake with a tripod. Slower shutter speeds mean camera shake. To steady your shot even further, use a remote release (or the self timer if you don’t have one).
If there’s ever a time to get off auto, it’s in low light. Use s the right shutter speed for the shot. Shutter priority mode, will allow you to choose the right shutter speed for the shot. Nine times out of ten, a noisy, sharp image is better than a blurry one — and that tenth time should be reserved for intentional motion blur with the long exposure technique.
Noise can be reduced to some extent in Photoshop or photoscape, but sharpness cannot be mimicked. If you capture a blurry photo, there’s no way to remedy that in post processing. Err on the side of noise over blur.
Having said the above, not all blur is bad. The blur of moving water, clouds in the sky or people in a crowd, just to name a few, can create very effective images. Blur, when done right, gives an image a sense of motion and is something that every photographer should at least experiment with.
Set your camera up on a tripod and use a long shutter speed—try starting at 30 s. and go up or down from there. Take a look at your first shot—for more blur, lower the shutter speed, for less, increase it.
The lower the light is, the harder the shot is—but low light photography can produce great shots. Low light shots are full of emotion.
Don’t be afraid of using the flash. Start by learning how to adjust your flash with manual mode. Even if you just have a pop-up flash, you can turn adjust the flash to half power or 1/16 to eliminate that bright “flash look”. Unlike manual exposure, there isn’t a meter for using manual flash, so it takes some practice, but it is well worth the extra time. It also helps to shoot towards any existing light sources, otherwise you’ll end up with a black background.
5 reasons why you should use flash are:
- Control Of Light
- Control the Direction Of Light
- Control the Color Of The Light
- Control the Quality Of The Light
- Control the Amount Of Light
Shooting the same scene at night will get vastly different results than photographing the same thing during the day. Mastering low light photography may be harder than tackling those well lit shots, but the results are well worth the extra effort.
Now let’s mention the three levels of low light for photography.
- Visible: in daylight, when you happen to be in shadow areas behind buildings, under large trees or bridges.
- Low Light: after sunset, when you can still clearly see everything around you, but you can tell that it is getting dark or when you are indoors.
- Dark: at night, when you can only see the brightest objects.
I’m sure you have come across all of the above situations at some point of time with your camera and perhaps even found it challenging and frustrating to take pictures in those conditions.
1) Low Light Photography: Visible Conditions
Have you had a situation where you were in a shadow during the day and tried to take a picture? This was one of my frustrations when I bought my first DSLR, because I couldn’t understand why my pictures were coming out blurry. At times, the images on the rear LCD of the camera would look OK, but when I eventually viewed them on the computer screen, they would all be a little blurry. I had no idea why it was happening and really needed to find out why.
As I later found out, apparently, our eyes can see a much broader range of light, which is known as “dynamic range” in photography, than our cameras do. Therefore, even though you might think that there is plenty of light when you are in a shadow area, in fact, there might be inadequate light for the camera to effectively capture the image. Depending on your camera settings, there might be two consequences: a) you will have a blurry image and b) you might have a lot of noise in your image.
1.1) Shoot at Higher Shutter Speeds to Avoid Blurry Images
1.2) Decrease Your Aperture to the Lowest Number (f/stop)
1.3) Use a Faster Lens
1.4) Use a Lens with Image Stabilization Technology
1.5) Increase Your Camera ISO
What if you have already decreased your aperture to the lowest number and you are still getting slow shutter speeds? The answer then is to increase the camera ISO (sensor sensitivity), to make the sensor collect light faster. If you are shooting at ISO 100 and your camera is telling you that the shutter speed is 1/25th of a second, you will need to increase your ISO to 400 to get the shutter speed of 1/100th of a second. How did I calculate that? Basically, doubling your ISO doubles your shutter speed. So, increasing the camera ISO from 100 to 200, increases your shutter speed from 1/25th of a second to 1/50th of a second. Then, increasing it further more from 200 to 400 increases the shutter speed from 1/50th of a second to 1/100th of a second. Technically, the shutter speeds in the cameras a little different (1/30th, 1/60th and 1/125th of a second), but I used the above numbers to make it easier to understand. The main thing to remember, is that doubling ISO doubles your shutter speed.
Be careful with increasing your ISO to a big number, as higher sensor sensitivity means that more grain/noise will appear in your images. Most modern cameras can handle noise levels up to ISO 800 pretty well, while top-of-the-line full frame professional cameras can produce very little noise even at ISO 3200 and above.
2) Low Light Photography: Low Light Conditions
2.1) Stand Closer to the Light Source
2.2) Stabilize Yourself
2.3) Push Your ISO to a Higher Number
2.4) Shoot in RAW and Slightly Underexpose
2.5) Be Careful About Autofocus
In low-light environments, the camera might start to lose its autofocus capabilities. That’s what happens when there is not enough light – the camera cannot differentiate between objects anymore, just like if you were to point it at a plain white wall.
2.6) Use a Full-frame Camera
A full frame sensor is expensive, but very helpful in low-light situations.
2.7) Use a Monopod or a Tripod
3) Low-Light Photography: Dark Conditions
In poorly lit environments and at night, many of the above tips are useless, because you have no light to work with.
3.1) Use a Tripod
3.2) Use a Flashlight for Light Painting
3.3) Use Manual Focus
3.4) Practice, Practice and Practice!
I don’t have to say much here – just practice as much as you can and you will get better in no time!
Low-light photography is a lot of fun and you should definitely play and experiment with your camera in different lighting conditions. If you learn how to take pictures in low light, you will have an opportunity to take some amazing pictures that have a different feel to them compared to everyday pictures in daylight 🙂
Good luck from Judi!