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Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

Working with shutter speed in low light


From:

Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light

with Ben Long

Video: Working with shutter speed in low light

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.
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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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Foundations of Photography: Night and Low Light
4h 0m Intermediate Mar 29, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Understanding how low light affects exposure, shutter speed, color temperature, and more
  • Preparing for a low-light shoot
  • Shooting in dimly lit rooms
  • Using the flash indoors
  • Shooting in the shade
  • Taking flash portraits at night
  • Controlling flash color temperature
  • Focusing in low light
  • Light painting
  • Manipulating long shutter speeds
  • Correcting white balance
  • Brightening shadows
  • Sharpening and noise reduction
Subjects:
Photography Photography Foundations Night + Low Light Lighting
Author:
Ben Long

Working with shutter speed in low light

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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