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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.
I said at the beginning of this course that this was not a course on flash shooting or lighting, that we're going to be working with natural light, and that's still true. Nevertheless, flash is one way of dealing with a low-light situation. It's a complicated subject and we're still not going to do a flash course, but there is one simple thing you can do to really improve your flash photos in low light, and I want to show that to you now. The problem with flash is that it has limited range. Anything outside of the range of the flash is going to be darkness. When you shoot with your flash, the camera exposes for the level of illumination that your flash is producing and so anything within that cone of light that the flash makes will be well exposed.
Anything outside of it is off limits and dark. Let me show you a practical example of what I mean. I've got Josh over here. I'm going to take his picture. I'm turning my flash on. I'm at ISO 100. I'm in program mode, so I'm just going to let the camera decide what to do. Now we have some additional, artificial lighting on me right now. So I'm going to ask Greg to turn that off for a second. Greg, could you hit the lights? Thanks. And I'm framing Josh against the background of this cityscape here and taking a flash picture, and this is what we've got.
It's Josh against a dark limbo background. You can see one or two lights, but it's nothing like what I'm seeing right now, which is Josh and a whole town. So how can I get that whole town? Well you know already that when it gets darker you need a longer shutter speed. But again, my camera exposed for the flash level of illumination. It used a very quick shutter speed, one that was too quick to properly expose the background. But my flash only has a range of about 10 to 15 feet and the town is way out of range of my flash. So I what I am going to do is something called slow sync flash.
That's going to fire the flash to illuminate Josh, but it's going to do a long exposure to capture the background. Your camera may have a special mode for slow sync flash called night portrait mode. It would be an actual thing on your mode dial. My camera does not have that. Whether your camera has it or not, you can force your camera to slow sync by simply putting it in shutter priority mode and dialing in a long shutter speeds. So again I am at ISO 100. I've dialed up 4-second exposure. So this is just like taking a normal 4-second exposure.
I'm going to press the Shutter button. The shutter is going to open, stay open for four seconds. The flash is going to fire right away. That's going to illuminate Josh. Now I need to worry about camera shake, but I don't need to worry that much. The background is going to be soft and out of focus anyway. If that's a little blurry, that's not the end of the world. That's why I'm not using a tripod. So let me take that shot and you can see what it looks like. Greg, lights please. So I'm going to frame him the same. The camera is focusing, and I'm steadying my camera. I don't feel like that was particular steady, but it looks okay.
You can see here that Josh is illuminated and now I have background. Here's the image I have before, when it was just the flash, pretty much limbo behind him. Here's the image afterwards, with the long exposure. When you're doing this kind of shot, you need to be careful to warn your subject that you're going to do this. Most people's instinctive response to a flash is they smile, the flash goes off, and then they turn and walk away or they change their pose or whatever. In this case, he needed to stand there for four seconds. Now I could cut that time down by goosing my ISO.
If I put my ISO up to 200, that would get my long exposure down to two seconds, 400 will get me to 1 second, and so on. As I do that though, I might need to dial down the flash power using flash exposure compensation. Now we're getting into a lighting course. You can look those terms up on your own and see how to manipulate those. Slow sync flash though is an immediate way to get more realistic-looking low light pictures out of your flash. One last comment on these pictures. Notice that here in my final shot, Josh has one color temperature.
He's kind of white or bluish and the background is really yellow. That's because the camera has white balance for the flash. So what can I do to make those two different color temperatures equal? We're going to look at that in the next movie.
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