Join Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke for an in-depth discussion in this video Taking a candlelit portrait, part of Photography 101: Shooting in Low Light.
Here's a very common real world situation. You're out with your friends and family out for dinner in a nice restaurant and you want to take a picture. Well, fine. You can take a picture but lets not be this guy. If you want to take a picture and have it well lit that's easy to do right? You just put a big flash on your camera and Blind your date and disturb everybody else in the restaurant and not even get a nice picture in the process. So, let's not be that guy. Let's take the flash off. So now, we're going to shoot in this very dimly lit, candlelit, low light situation with the camera without any flash.
So, how are we going to go about doing that. Well, let's first talk about the gear that I've got here. I'm work with a Canon 5D today and I have on here a nifty fifty. Just a straight old 50 millimeter lens. It's an F1.8 lens so it's not particularly fast, a very inexpensive lens and with this kit I'm going to get a really nice photo in here without using the flash. So, the first thing I want to do is go into aperture priority mode. That's going to allow me to set the aperture that I want. In this case, as wide open as my lens can possibly get. That's going to let in all the light that's available. And then, the camera will automatically choose the shutter speed for me.
Now, I could have it set to automatically choose the iso as well. But, what's going to happen is the camera's going to try and give me a hand holdable shutter speed. So, maybe a 60th of a second or faster. And, in doing that, it's going to take the ISO way up to maybe 6400 or even higher. And, I don't want that. I don't want the ISO to go that high because I want a cleaner photo. So, if I bring the ISO down to a more reasonable level, like, say, 320 or 640, then the problem there is the shutter speed is going to be too long to hand-hold. So, let's first see what happens when I put those settings in. So again, I'm in extra priority mode here.
And, let's go ahead and set, let's see, aperture 1.8, that's great, and my Ice is as 320 right now, and let's see what this looks like. It looks like about a fifth of a second, and if we look at the shot. It, it's not solid. The camera moved too much during that fifth of a second. Holding a fifth of a second handheld is really hard to do. So, we need to find a way to stabilize the camera. Well, normally, you just get out your tripod, right? But, we're in a restaurant; we don't want to do that. So, we need to find another way to stabilize the camera. Well, that's the point of this lesson. You can find anything to stabilize your camera.
Just look at the table around you. Maybe I just take a, a napkin and roll it up and set the camera on there, or take a glass. I could set the glass down. That's not quite high enough. Look around, see what you can find. Here's a water bottle. Maybe, I can do that. Maybe, get a little more creative. Let's take a glass. Make sure it's not full when you do that. Take the glass. Stack something up. And, let's try this. Much better. That was at a quarter of a second. Totally rock solid. The picture is sharp and we don't have any of that shake, and we didn't have to disturb the rest of the restaurant with a flash, now did we have to break out our big tripod.
So, the lesson here is just look for things around you that you can stabilize your camera with. At the dinner table, it's going to be objects on the table. Around your house you might want to set it on the end of the couch or set it on the dining room table. Set it on the kitchen counter. There's always places that you can set your camera down or even just lean it up against something to stabilize and get that shot much more solid than hand holding it
Joseph explores indoor, candlelit scenes; bright cities, where he shows how to capture spectacular traffic trails; and the great outdoors, under the natural light of the moon and stars. The course also contains tips on using your iPhone or other smartphone for low-light photography—or even as a light source—and enhancing noisy, high-ISO images in post-production.
- Setting up low-light portraits
- Using the iPad as a light source
- Shooting a long exposure of city lights
- Shooting simple night photos
- Exposing for the moon
- Processing night shots with StarStaX