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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.
(cross talk) Ben: So I have zeroed in on an ISO strategy. I have got my ISO up I think where it needs to be get me a decent shutter speed. I am shooting at 3200. Is that about where you are at? Steve: Yeah, I am actually a little bit higher. This camera allows me shoot at even higher than that, at 6400, so I am taking advantage of it, because the light is really low here. Ben: There's also a mode choice to be made. Obviously, I can change the shooting mode on my camera, which gives me more or less control over different parameters. What's your approach on this one, Steve? Steve: Well, I am a big fan of aperture priority.
I use probably aperture priority about 88% of the time when I am shooting, but in certain situations I like to go to manual. Then reason being, in this particular situation the, light is fairly even, so wherever I kind of aim my camera, the exposure is going to be fairly constant. So once I determine my exposure, when I go to manual, I have the freedom to include point light sources like candles without affecting it. And because I'm shooting kind of wide, if I was in an auto mode and I go real close up to the candle, it's going to affect the meter and maybe you want to underexpose a little.
So in this instance, I am going to go with manual. Ben: So what you're worried about is in automatic mode framing wide enough, which is hard not to do, he has got a 16-35 lens, so he's got a pretty wide angle, the bright candles are possibly going to throw the meter off. They are going to expose--the meter is going to expose where the candles and your scene is going to go dark. So you are locking in your exposure by going to manual mode and preventing that problem from happening. Steve: I am, because for me, the most important thing is to get the exposure right on the guests here at the dinner party.
I want to get nice shots of the people. If the candles blow out a little, I am not going to worry about that. I am going to use those as more of a framing device. Ben: Okay. I am shooting with a faster lens than you are; I am shooting with a 2.8 16-35. You've got a f/4 16-35. I think I am going to go to aperture priority mode, because I want to be sure that that aperture stays really wide. And it's dark enough in here that you might think, well, it's going to stay really wide anyway, but I am noticing it is closing down to 35 a little bit, and I want to be sure that I can keep it opened.
Different strategies. One is not right or wrong necessarily. We'll do some shooting and find out, maybe that my Aperture Priority idea is just not going to work out for me. Ben: Let's go over there and take some pictures. Steve: Let's do it. (cross talk and cameras shooting) Ben: Did you go into manual mode and meter there and follow your meter and set your parameters that way, or did you take a reading in another mode and then dial that into manual mode? Steve: That's a good question.
I mean certainly, maybe the textbook way is to be in manual and meter that way, but because I use Aperture Priority about 90% of the time, it's a very natural thing for me to be in Aperture Priority to make sure that I aim my camera at the areas that are important, particularly a neutral tone, a neutral gray area, determine what that reading is, remember it, and then set it manually. And once I've set it, I can forget it and then I can concentrate on capturing the moments. Ben: Right. Standing in here in the room right now, it doesn't look like it's that dark of a room, but you start looking through that viewfinder and you start seeing those slow shutter speeds and this is really kind of an intense low-light situation. It's a much more difficult shooting situation than you may think when you first walk in here.
Steve: No question, I mean I don't really like to as we--as none of us do, we don't really like to necessarily shoot at the very high ISOs, but at the same time, we are not afraid of it, because now we can get shots that we wouldn't have got otherwise. We can capture the natural light in a very natural way. And the shutter speed was not necessarily as fast as I'd like, but I think a lot of those images are going to be shot. There may be a few people of people who were really moving that will be little blurred and sometimes a little blur in an available light shot can add to the atmosphere of the situation you are photographing.
Ben: I did a little experimenting. I shot some in aperture priority mode. I went back to program mode and I actually could not confuse the meter. I was pleased to find that the candles are not enough of a point light source that they were throwing the meter off. What I am finding myself frustrated by is I don't think I want the wide angle that I am using. I think that I want to go more telephoto, and so I'm going to switch to a longer lens, stay in aperture priority mode, and go for some really shallow depth of field. I think the next thing we want to think about though is being sure that our shots are sharp, so we are going to come back and talk to you about stabilization.
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