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Manipulating long shutter speeds

From: Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

Video: Manipulating long shutter speeds

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.

Manipulating long shutter speeds

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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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light
Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

55 video lessons · 37537 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 2m 27s
    1. Welcome
      2m 27s
  2. 6m 20s
    1. What can you shoot in low light?
      2m 17s
    2. What you need for this course
      4m 3s
  3. 28m 54s
    1. Working with exposure parameters in low light
      1m 13s
    2. Working with image sensors in low light
      4m 35s
    3. Working with shutter speed in low light
      3m 3s
    4. Considering motion blur
      1m 14s
    5. Working with ISO in low light
      2m 29s
    6. Assessing your camera's high ISO capability
      4m 52s
    7. Working with in-camera noise reduction
      2m 4s
    8. Working with aperture in low light
      2m 10s
    9. Understanding dynamic range
      2m 2s
    10. Working with color temperature and white balance
      1m 11s
    11. Exposing to the right
      4m 1s
  4. 34m 39s
    1. Introduction
      1m 36s
    2. Talking with Steve Simon about low-light photography
      13m 46s
    3. Shooting by candlelight
      1m 55s
    4. Choosing a mode
      4m 34s
    5. Exploring the role of lens stabilization
      3m 1s
    6. White balance considerations
      3m 27s
    7. Flash considerations
      1m 18s
    8. Problem solving
      1m 35s
    9. Understanding aesthetics and composition
      3m 27s
  5. 30m 4s
    1. Introduction
      2m 20s
    2. Preparing for the shoot
      5m 25s
    3. Act I: adjusting to the light
      3m 48s
    4. Intermission: reviewing the strategy
      1m 53s
    5. Act II: moving to the back of the house
      2m 35s
    6. After the show: lessons learned
      1m 18s
    7. Reviewing the performance images
      12m 45s
  6. 19m 18s
    1. Shooting in the shade
      2m 55s
    2. Street shooting
      2m 52s
    3. Shooting flash portraits at night
      4m 5s
    4. Controlling flash color temperature
      2m 50s
    5. Adjusting exposure to preserve the mood
      2m 34s
    6. Dynamic range considerations
      4m 2s
  7. 41m 0s
    1. Shooting lingering sunsets
      1m 42s
    2. Exploring focusing strategies
      5m 17s
    3. Composing and focusing at night
      10m 42s
    4. Shooting the stars
      9m 27s
    5. Practicing low-light landscape shooting
      9m 55s
    6. Focusing on the horizon in low light
      3m 57s
  8. 13m 4s
    1. Light painting: behind the camera
      7m 34s
    2. Light painting: in front of the camera
      2m 13s
    3. Manipulating long shutter speeds
      3m 17s
  9. 1h 4m
    1. Correcting white balance
      8m 49s
    2. Correcting white balance with a gray card
      3m 50s
    3. Correcting white balance of JPEG images
      2m 0s
    4. Blending exposures with different white balances
      7m 13s
    5. Brightening shadows
      9m 8s
    6. Reducing noise
      7m 44s
    7. Sharpening
      9m 14s
    8. Correcting depth-of-field issues
      9m 32s
    9. Correcting night skies
      6m 39s
  10. 53s
    1. Goodbye
      53s

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