Join Steve Simon for an in-depth discussion in this video Shooting scenes from a low-light boardwalk, part of Street Photography: The City at Night.
- Hey everybody, we're here at Brighton Beach, and it's a little bit darker now, but when I first arrived there was a little more ambient light and a beautiful, almost full moon, so I wanted to get that full moon in the shot. Now the difference, the brightness range difference is pretty great and even if the full moon, there would be no detail and it goes all white, that wasn't going to be a major issue with me, but I went to work right away. I've got two cameras with very fast lenses because this is not about using a tripod. This kind of night photography, I want to capture moments and I want to be nimble and fast and quick.
So having these two 1.4 lenses allows me to shoot wide open or close to wide open and because I'm not afraid to boost my ISO high, because, you know, 6400 with my Nikons now, with many of the cameras now, is extremely high quality, it's not like it used to be. I'm not afraid to boost the ISO to get a really sharp shot. So I immediately went to work, looking for interesting compositions, and I shot a few things, I was running around. The other thing I did was, I'm shooting raw, because it's really important, in terms of color balance, to be able to have the flexibility to change the color balance without consequence.
I preset my white balance to tungsten, I wasn't exactly sure what lights were, but I didn't have a lot of time to do a custom white balance test. That's fine, I can fix it in post without consequence. No problem. It's a little bit closer to tungsten and I went to work. I photographed people going by. I'm taking chances, you know. I'm shooting at sometimes slow shutter speeds. When I'm shooting at slow shutter speeds, it really is nice to have a VR lens, that at least steadies you. It's not going to stop any subject movement, but it will give you, it will reduce or eliminate the camera shake, which is a real nice advantage.
But I don't let VR, I don't trust VR, to take advantage. I'd rather have a faster shutter speed, to make sure I get a sharp image by neutralizing any camera shake and stopping subject movement. So I ended up photographing a lot of different people and then I thought I would ask, there were some very interesting people here. I asked a gentleman if I could photograph him. Can I do a picture of you, would you mind? - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Okay, yeah. Just cause it's low light, stay there. - I stay to sit? - Yeah, don't move, don't move. So just relax, stare out the way you were like I'm not even here.
Don't smile, I know it's hard not to. Okay, perfect. (phone ringing) Oh, do you have to get that? - Yeah. - Go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah, answer. His cell phone rang in the middle of the shot. I said, "Yeah, please, go answer it." And then I just went to work, taking some shots of him on the phone, maybe that will be the best shot. Thank you. I appreciate it. Are you done? Thank you very much. I appreciate it. - No problem. - There was this really nice couple that came by, and they let me take a picture of them. Excuse me, can I ask you a question? Could I take a picture of you? It won't take a second.
- Okay. - Oh, thank you very much. You look great. Stop. I'll just do one. So look right at me. Together. - Thank you. - Thank you very much. Hang on. Let me make sure, cause it's so dark, I want to make sure I got it okay. Okay, let me come back a bit. It's so dark, it's really kind of hard to see. I'm not checking my review scene, I'm checking my histogram. The other thing in working in low light, with many cameras, not all your focus points are as sensitive, so I tend to use more of a center point, because if you have difficulty auto-focusing with an outside point, the center points are usually more sensitive and you'll have better luck at it.
Not everyone that I asked allowed me to take their picture, and that's okay. May I take your picture? I'm a photographer. - No. - Oh you don't want? Why? You're beautiful. I can make a nice picture. Okay, thank you. One woman actually saw me taking pictures, and she came up and solicited me and asked can I take her picture. She was very interested in kind of knowing how she looked and maybe she wanted my opinion on what was the best side and all that kind of stuff. So I was happy to comply and we did a little bit of a session and I'm happy to send her the pictures.
So, so far so good. Not every time do the people agree. But, you know, it's something I've become accustomed to. And, you know, if you want to see more of how I do this, and my tips on approaching strangers, check out the posed street photography course as well as the candid street photography course, where there's more of that. I think it's really important to start to get out of your comfort zone and go up to people and approach them. Yeah, not everyone's going to agree, but in my experience, I've had some really wonderful interactions with people I would otherwise have not.
It's never easy to go up to a stranger, but, you know what, it does get easier the more you do it. And eventually you're going to love doing it because you're going to have all these great experiences.
- Taking shots of the skyline at night
- Shooting with a long exposure and noise reduction
- Shooting subjects in low light
- Panning with a moving subject
- Shooting light trails
- Zeroing out camera settings after a complex shot