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Just as you cannot see as well in the dark, your camera has a more difficult time creating an image if you don't have enough light. Now, not enough light doesn't mean an image that's completely dark. Long before you get to full darkness, you'll encounter the problem of a scene that simply doesn't have enough light to show a level of detail that the viewer can make sense of. Now you determine how bright or dark your final images through your exposure controls: shutter speed, aperture, ISO. You should already be familiar with these and how they interrelate.
But let's quickly review a couple of critical low-light concerns. As the shutter is open longer, moving objects in your scene will get blurrier and if you're shaking the camera at all, overall sharpness in your image will decrease, due to camera shake. Of course, leaving the shutter open longer is one of the ways that you can get more light onto the sensor. So in low light, you'll be battling this balance of a shutter speed that's long enough to get you to light that you need but not so long that it introduces unwanted motion blur or camera shake.
When you're shooting handheld, there's a simple guideline that you can follow to determine if your current shutter speed is fast enough to prevent blur from camera shake. Look at the focal length on the lens that you're using. So in this case right now, I'm dialed to a 100 mm. If my shutter speed is less than 1 over that focal length, then I will run the risk of a blurry image. So in this case, if my shutter speed drops below 1/100th of a second, I need to be concerned about a soft image, just because I might be shaking the camera.
Longer focal lengths needs a faster shutter speed to prevent blur, because with a longer focal length, you're cropping a smaller area of the world. Then any small camera motion become more pronounced. In my case though, I'm using a stabilized lens, one that offers three reliable stops of stabilization. Now remember, every stop represents a doubling or halfing. So, one stop down from 1/100th is 150. A stop down from there is 1/25th, and one down from there is one-twelfth-- that's three stops. So if I'm careful, I can get a stable image with this lens down to roughly 1/12 of a second.
I've got to say that the stabilizer on these lenses actually claims four stops, but just from experience using it, I'm not comfortable taking that fourth stop down. Now this rule is only about addressing camera shake; it has no bearing on objects in my scene that are moving. If I'm shooting a dance performance in low light, one twelfth of a second is going to give me very blurry motion, and there's nothing I can do about that, other than to speed up the shutter speed. But if I do that, I'll be cutting out more light and then my image might be too dark. These are the types of trade-offs that we will be examining throughout this course.
To get the most from these lessons, you need to understand how to control the shutter speed on your camera. It would be best if you knew how to use your camera's program shift feature-- some manufacturers call that flexible program--as well as exposure compensation, aperture, and shutter priority, and manual mode.
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