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Very often, you know what the subject you want to shoot is, but light levels in the scene are low enough that getting the shot can be difficult. For example, a holiday dinner with your family, you know you want to shoot your relatives and maybe the food, but the room is lit only by candles. With that low light level, it's going to be hard to freeze motion and get a sharp image. We will be looking at how to handle those situations later in this course. But low light isn't always a problem. If you know how to work with it, low light can open up new photographic possibilities.
Now it's a fairly obvious statement to say that the world looks very different at night or in very low light. But let's think for a minute about why it looks different. First, with less light, some things are simply less visible. Now that can really change where your eye is drawn to in an image. In other words, in low light, the subject of a scene may shift dramatically simply because of what's visible. During the day we mostly live by sunlight. When the sun goes down other light sources take over and those light sources are not always so high overhead.
This change in the direction of lighting can lead to very different textures in a scene. What's more, they can have a heavy influence on what the subject of the scene is, and very often this different type of lighting can be an interesting subject in itself. Finally, the type of lighting you get in low-light situations or at nighttime can simply create plays of light and shadow that do not exist in the daytime: reflections, highlights, interesting shadows, splashes of light. There can be all sorts of light features that don't appear in the same scene under brighter light.
So honing your low-light skills offers not just the ability to capture images that can be difficult; as you learn to shoot in low light, you should find yourself discovering shooting opportunities that you simply had not seen before, possibly in locations that you are already familiar with. Learning to shoot in low light is as much about learning to see differently and recognize a different type of subject matter as it is learning any particular technical process. And that makes the study of low-light shooting a worthwhile pursuit, no matter how much you ultimately end up doing it.
Because the more you can learn about seeing, the better all of your photography will be.
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