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What you need for this course

From: Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

Video: What you need for this course

If the photographic world were still limited to only film cameras, then this would be a very different course, for the simple reason that we would not be able to shoot in some of the situations that you're going to see. The fact is, we just don't have the film technology that can compare to digital when working in low light. Digital image sensors are incredibly sensitive to light and so are ideal for working at night or in other low-light situations. Digital cameras today possess sensors that have ISO ratings and signal-to-noise responses that far surpass any film technology.

What you need for this course

If the photographic world were still limited to only film cameras, then this would be a very different course, for the simple reason that we would not be able to shoot in some of the situations that you're going to see. The fact is, we just don't have the film technology that can compare to digital when working in low light. Digital image sensors are incredibly sensitive to light and so are ideal for working at night or in other low-light situations. Digital cameras today possess sensors that have ISO ratings and signal-to-noise responses that far surpass any film technology.

So as a digital shooter, you have a new realm of subject matter to explore once light levels get lower. If you're coming from a film background then you might be shocked to find out what's possible in low light with a good digital camera. Now, by good I mean a camera that provides the ability to raise the ISO while still delivering results that offer low noise levels. These days most SLRs and some advanced point-and-shoots offer ISOs up to 1600. Some go even farther with professional grade SLRs providing ludicrously high ISOs, like 125,000 and higher.

Noise is simply those ugly grainy patterns that can appear when you raise ISO, and we'll be looking at noise in more detail later. In addition to a camera that provides good high ISO capability, it's also helpful to have a camera that can shoot in RAW format. Getting accurate white balance in low light can be tricky and because RAW lets you alter white balance after you shoot, editing your low-light images in RAW can be much easier than working with JPEG files. As light levels drop, we will often be taking more manual control of the camera.

So a camera that offers Priority modes and a Full Manual mode can be critical for low light work. A faster lens--that is a lens that can open to a wider aperture--can afford you a lot more exposure latitude when you're working in low light and a lens that's stabilize can make it easier to shoot sharp images. Speaking of stabilization, a tripod or monopod or other stabilization device can be critical for low-light shooting. If you don't have a camera with these features or you don't have a nice tripod, don't rush out yet and buy new gear.

Work through the course, practice with the camera you have, and try to learn exactly where your gear is deficient before you bother investing in something new. Now to follow along with this course, you have to be comfortable with the practice of metering. Also, if you're not familiar with terms like fast lens or high ISO or priority mode, then you need to do a little preparatory study before you head on from here. Check out my Foundations of Photography: Exposure course for more on the fundamentals of exposure and my Foundations of Photography: Lenses course for more about the particulars of lens speed and auto focus and focal length and those concepts.

For the most part, this is a course on shooting in available light, even when there's not very much of it. While we will look at one or two flash issues, this is not a course on lighting or on using strobes. This is a course about shooting in available low light with the idea of getting shots that look like they were shot in low light. So don't worry about investing in any lighting gear. This is also a course that might lead you outside late at night. So depending on the weather where you are, that might mean you need some foul weather gear. If it's cold, you'll need something to keep warm, like a stupid-looking hat, and that won't impede your movement or the control of your camera.

If it's wet, you'll need a way to stay dry and you might need a raincoat for your camera. The only other thing you need is curiosity and a desire to explore a different type of imaging, a type of imaging where light behaves differently from what you're used to, and where your process of shooting will most likely slow down. It can take a while to make all of the decisions required for low-light shooting. So some of the things you're to learn here may lead you to a very different shooting practice from what you're used to. Before we head off in the dark though, we're going to spend some time reviewing some fundamental concepts from the point of view of a low-light shooter.

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

55 video lessons · 36819 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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