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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) We've been thinking a lot about the technical problems, but good technical solutions aren't going to guarantee you that you're going to get a good picture. You've got to frame a good shot, compose a good shot. Any tips for shooting in this kind of situation for getting better stuff? Steve Simon: Well, I guess, getting that technical stuff solved and out of the way so you can concentrate on capturing the moments, and the people kind of enjoying themselves. There are people likely that you know and you want to get nice shots of them, so you want to capture them while they're having fun. So once you've got the technical out of the way, you can concentrate on capturing those moments when people are laughing and having a good time.
I would often maybe come in a little bit close to have something kind of in the foreground to help frame the image a little bit. And you never know what you're going to do with these pictures, so I might want to isolate some little close-ups and if I'm going to put together maybe a slideshow or even make my own little book about the dinner party, it's nice to have a variety of different images that will help tell the story when you put them all together. Ben: And I think coverage is a good thing to remember. You're covering the event, not just the people, and that needs to include all the details of the event: the wine bottles, the glasses, the dishes, that kind of thing. And those can all be nice little bits of texture that you can add to things.
I think also when everyone is sitting down and you're walking around with a camera, it's really easy to not even realize that you're taking all of your pictures from a standing position, aiming down at people. So it's really good to get down on your knees, sit down in chairs next to people, start working the point-of-view aspect of your compositions and really change it up and try different things. Steve: That's a great point, and you know as well as I that a slight little movement can move things within the frame. If you kind of move a little bit, you're going to eliminate maybe distractions or add, include something in the frame.
So once you're out there, you want to be kind of--you're conscious of the expressions and the moments, but you're also conscious of the little details that might distract from the total image. Ben: And distraction can be a problem in a low-light situation. We've talked about how low light is very often high-dynamic-range situation, because you've got these dim areas and then these candles and light bulbs and things that are really bright, and it's very easy to have one of those maybe on the edge of your frame, and that can be a real distraction. You need to try and frame those things out, put people in front of them, or simply crop them out, and that's a case where Steve's idea of real slight movements can allow you to rearrange things in the scene in a really helpful way, to minimize distraction.
Steve: And because things are so unpredictable, I tend to shoot maybe a little more than I normally would in other situations. It's digital. We've got the cards. We can always delete stuff. But, you want to get it, because the party happens, and then it's gone and you want to make sure you get the best coverage, because it's not going to happen again. Well hopefully, it will happen again, but not this moment, not this night. Ben: It's a lot to keep track of, your balancing, shutter speed to be sure that you get good sharp images. You're thinking about aperture, because you still need to worry about depth-of-field control. You're managing your ISO against your noise. You're trying to keep all of those things in play, and on top of all that, you're going to do all this other stuff that we've been talking about of paying attention to people's expressions and what else is in the frame.
But it's something that gets very easy with practice. And one of the great things about a situation like this is you can practice at home. Shoot the family dinner every night until you get better at it. Self-portraits at home even can be something you can set up with a tripod and get some practice managing all these different parameters. Steve: And the more you practice, the luckier you get. Ben: That's right! And that's very often a part of it.
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