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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.
In the last couple of the movies, you've seen us directly manipulating the light in our scene. You see how we used ISO to control how much the light we were adding was burning into our scene, and we used a very long shutter speed to give ourselves lots of time to work. We were still using aperture to think about depth of field. We set our ambient light first and then went to work painting with light. We were thinking of light as a commodity, as something we can pour onto the frame, as something we could simply add to the image as we chose. This is one of the advantages of low- light photography, where we can have this long shutter speed that gives us lots of time to work and that gives us lots of time to slowly add light to different parts of our scene.
I left the crew in the basement last night with some cameras and they started playing around and had a lot of fun doing the light-painting type of things that we've already seen, but while changing the scene before them. They had a camera running and you can see what's going on. Jacob was turning off the lights. Josh was standing at the top of the stairs. Now what's going to happen is Jacob is going to fire a flash at Josh on the stairs and then--there it was--and Josh is standing in one position. Now Josh is moving.
Because it's so dark, the still camera is not picking up any of his movement, and now Jacob fires a second flash to capture him in the other position. The shutter has been open the same time. So this is a single image. The lights are back on. Let's take a look at what they got, and here's the final shot. Josh is shooting himself on the staircase. So it should be pretty obvious to you how this image was built up. Now, there's no Photoshop work here. It's not multiple exposures. It's this one frame, but one flash illuminated Josh while he was on the stairs and didn't spill into the other part of the frame.
While still in darkness, Josh came down the stairs manage not bump in anything, got into next position. Jacob flashed him again. Now for this to work, it was very important that the flashes didn't bleed into each other, that light was only going into half the frame of the first shot, so that the other half stayed dark, and then vice versa after they moved. This is a very simple example of just one thing you can do. They were playing around a lot. Any source of light is something that you can paint onto the frame with. Glow sticks, flashlights, cigarette lighters, any of those kinds of things, anything that casts either direct or diffuse light can create a really interesting effect when it's painted onto the sensor like this.
Probably the three biggest issues you're going to face are whether your ambient light levels are too high, whether your lights are bleeding into each other, and whether you or your light source is visible when you don't want it to be. You can play around with all those things by controlling your light better, changing your exposure values to change your ambient light levels, and so on and so forth. The great thing about this is you can do it in any dark room. You don't need anything other than an external flash and to know how to control your camera well enough to get that long exposure going. Learning to manipulate light like this, even if you don't ultimately do anything with these kinds of images, it's a great way to start thinking, again, about light as a commodity, about something that you collect on the sensor.
That's a good mindset to have for your regular photo work also. It can give you a different perspective on exposure and how to control naturally occurring light in your scene.
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