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Join photographer and teacher Ben Long as he describes the tools, creative options, and special considerations involved in shooting with a DSLR camera at night or in low-light conditions, such as sunset or candlelight. The course addresses exposure decisions such as choice of aperture and shutter speed and how they impact depth of field and the camera’s ability to freeze motion.
Ben also shows how to obtain accurate color balance in tungsten and fluorescent lighting situations, and how to postprocess the images in Photoshop to remove noise caused by higher ISO settings. He also demonstrates accessories that can greatly expand your low-light photography options.
One of the reasons you might choose to shoot in low light is that low light creates a very particular mood. Dusk has a very particular feeling to it. At dusk though, you got to be careful, because the light changes very quickly and because your camera might work against you. For example, right now I'm liking this lower light. I am liking the dusky feel that it's giving me. I am getting this great bit where I have got the sun setting over there, and it's darker over here, and I want to take a shot of that. This is a pretty straightforward, easy picture to get. I put a wide-angle lens on. I am getting some nice drama both from these rocks and from the clouds. But when I look at the picture, I get this.
It doesn't have the ambience that I am sitting here. It doesn't have that dusk vibe, because my camera has compensated for the low light. It's brightened everything up and made it look almost just like a normal full daytime picture. That's not what I was going for. So what I need to do here is override my camera and dial in some intentional underexposure to bring the levels in the image back down to how they look to my eye while I am standing here. I am shooting in aperture priority mode, because this is a landscape shots. I want deep depth of field, so I have dialed in an aperture of f/8.
To get a shutter speed up where I need it, I've had to bring my ISO up to 800. So now what I am going to do is take my exposure compensation control and dial it down one stop. That's going to change my shutter speed. Because I'm in aperture priority, exposure compensation will not touch aperture; it's just going to modify my shutter speed. Now I am going to take another shot, and when I look at this one, aha! Now we are getting somewhere. That's looking like a dusk shot. I think I went a little too far though, so I am going to back off and maybe go to 2/3rds of a stop under.
Your camera, the exposure compensation, can probably be set so that it moves in either half-stop or third-stop increments. This is a reason to have the finer grain third-stop increment, as I need just a little bit of brightening over what I got before, and I think that's it. I think that's looking a lot more like I have it here. You'll find the same problem if you are shooting in the city at dusk, maybe when the lights have just come on and you're getting that nice mix of a little bit of lingering daylight and mixed with the streetlights and things like that. Your camera might just brighten that right up.
A little bit of under exposure will take care of that. Landscape shooting at dusk is the same problem. Don't just blindly follow your camera during these twilight hours. You need to take a look at the histogram. You need to take a look at the image and consider some intentional under exposure if you find the camera is brightening the image up so that it doesn't really look like what it felt like.
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