Shooting in low light
Video: Shooting in low lightThe ability to shoot in low light is one of the truly great advantages of digital photography. Digital image sensors are so sensitive to light that you can shoot images that simply would not have been possible with film. If you are not used to taking your camera out at night, you really should start. The world looks very different when illuminated by moonlight or streetlights, and you might find subject matter that you've never noticed before. Now obviously, when you are shooting in low light, you will need to raise your ISO to try to get your shutter speed up to something reasonable for hand-held shooting, and that means you will have to know how high you can go with ISO before you hit unacceptable noise levels.
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Arriving at the best exposure for a photo is part science and part art. In Foundations of Photography: Exposure, Ben Long helps photographers expand their artistic options by giving them a deep understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and all other critical exposure practices. This course covers the basic exposure controls provided by all digital SLR cameras, as well as most advanced point-and-shoot models. Learn how to master a camera's metering modes, how to use exposure compensation and bracketing, and much more. By the end of the course, you'll know how to develop an "exposure strategy" that will allow you to effectively employ your exposure knowledge in any shooting situation.
- What is exposure?
- Exploring camera modes
- Light metering
- Shooting sharp images
- Controlling shutter speed
- Understanding f-stops
- Controlling motion
- Working with a shallow depth of field
- Measuring aperture
- Shooting in low light conditions
- Performing manual light balance
- Working with the histogram
- Using fill flash
- Understanding reciprocity
Shooting in low light
The ability to shoot in low light is one of the truly great advantages of digital photography. Digital image sensors are so sensitive to light that you can shoot images that simply would not have been possible with film. If you are not used to taking your camera out at night, you really should start. The world looks very different when illuminated by moonlight or streetlights, and you might find subject matter that you've never noticed before. Now obviously, when you are shooting in low light, you will need to raise your ISO to try to get your shutter speed up to something reasonable for hand-held shooting, and that means you will have to know how high you can go with ISO before you hit unacceptable noise levels.
Bear in mind that when you're in low light your camera will most likely open you aperture as far as it will go, which means depth of field will go down. If you need deeper depth of field, then you'll need to switch to aperture priority mode and set your depth of field where you want it. Now this will cause your shutter speed to slow down, so you might need a tripod. Because of their low-light ability, digital cameras are also great for shooting concerts and performances, assuming your have permission. When shooting a concert or performance, you'll face a few issues. First, stage lighting is usually colored, so white balance will be a challenge.
Just leave your camera on auto white balance or shoot in RAW. If you get home and find that your images have a bunch of weird red and green light in them, that's probably because there were just red or green lighting, and there is really nothing you can do about it. You are going to have to give up on getting really normal-looking flesh tones. Second, if you are trying to shoot something that's moving-- a musician or a performer--then you might find you have trouble freezing your motion. Now motion control is a function of shutter speed. So when you're shooting a concert or performance, you are going to want to be in shutter priority mode. Start with a shutter speed that's going to be good enough for hand-held shooting, so maybe like a 30th or a 60th of a second.
At that speed, if something is moving very quickly, it's still probably going to be a little blurry. So from there you can try increasing your shutter speed. Now, if something is moving very quick, you may find that if you've increased shutter speed to the point where you can actually freeze that, your image is going to be too dark. That's okay. Take it anyway. You might be able to brighten it up in your image editor later. To work around this and to give yourself a safety net, bracket your shots. Take some at a shutter speed that's good for hand-held shooting, and then take some that are a little bit underexposed.
One of those will probably work out well. Another way to get around objects, or people that are moving too fast to freeze: simply don't shoot them. Shoot other performers on the stage. Shoot their reactions. It's best to not to try to tell the story of the performance you're shooting, because that's going to lead you to shooting wide shots where we can't see very much and where you have more motion control issues. So if you're really focusing on close-ups of performers, especially ones that aren't moving too fast, you'll probably be okay. They will warn you ahead of time, but you want to be sure that your flash is not firing. Now, if you're in a priority mode, if you're in shutter or aperture priority mode, your flash will never automatically pop up, so that's not a problem.
Just be sure that you never go into full auto mode, where it could come up on its own. Also, you want to turn the beep on your camera off, so that it doesn't disturb people around you, and you probably want to turn of the image review--that is, you don't want image is popping up on the screen after you shoot a picture because that messes up everyone's low-light vision. Permission is a very important issue when you're shooting concerts and performances: not only do you need the permission of the performers; you might need the permission of the owners of the hall. A lot of times performance halls are union spaces that you're not allowed to shoot in unless you're a member of the union.
Obviously, all of these techniques take practice, but you should find that low light should never be an impediment to good shooting.
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