10 Tips for Low Light Photography
Photographers have been advised over the years that light is the key to a good photo. As a photographer myself, I found that the hunt for the right light for a specific idea that I had in mind would take up so much time, when all I wanted to do was shoot. Late last year I attended a workshop which changed my mind completely with regards to lighting – improvising, having the right equipment, and being creative with the light became more of a priority. I started to look for other options once I knew that low-light can result in blurriness and indeed take lots of extra time to edit.
Here are a few of the methods I use to take advantage of a low-light situation:
Many people forget to shoot in RAW, or choose jpeg due to the fact that they consider it an easier option. In reality, the jpeg option makes it more difficult to add light to the image if it has been shot in low-light. Shooting in RAW makes it easier to add light to images shot in darker situations through editing software, resulting in a better overall quality of image.
Monitoring exposure through the viewfinder and shooting in manual mode gives you the opportunity to tweak settings as you go. Don’t forget to put your camera in aperture priority mode.
If you’re not already outside, go outside! Acting like giant light diffusers, clouds remove harsh light flares and the sharp shadows that you may encounter when using a flash inside.
Find the light path
When shooting outside, make sure that you get familiar with the proper orientation of the site with relationship to the path of the sun and moon. There are a few Smartphone apps which can show the path of the sun and moon – Lightpath accurately does this for any one place at a specific time of the day.
Movement is rather easy to capture in conditions of low-light. To add a distinct contrast to an image, make sure the moving item is against a stationary object.
If you shoot at a purposely slow shutter speed, you can achieve a more artistic image, particularly in low-light conditions. Stabilising your camera with a tripod or at least something that will help to steady is a must, particularly when you have shutter speeds that are less than 1/100 of a second. An important thing to remember is more light gets into the camera the longer the shutter is open. The correct shutter speed settings is essential for low light photography.
By using a flash gun, you can control where the light is going. There are many options of how this is done, my favourite being hitting a subject from a different angle, or deflecting it so that the image is softened.
Use a reflector
When you use a reflector, harsh direct light and shadows are eliminated and light from the flash is softened. You can buy a flash reflector pretty cheaply, or you could also make your own. A more expensive type of reflector is an umbrella reflector, which professionals use to reflect light evenly onto their subjects.
Up the ISO
An increase in ISO may mean that your image suffers from noise, but this can be easily fixed with some post-processing if you shoot in RAW.
Creativity is key!
If you’re shooting in the dark, how about playing with lights? A glow torch, sparkler or regular torch are ideal to paint with light or create light graffiti. If you decide to try this out, make sure you wear dark clothing, set your camera to a low exposure (a bulb setting or 20+ seconds is suggested) and if you’re working in a group, make sure you plan what you’re going to do.
Lastly, don’t forget about settings and adjusting these for the different techniques that you may want to try out. Here are a few suggestions:
- Hand held: Fast exposure, High ISO, Wide Aperture
- Indoor: Fast exposure, High ISO, Wide Aperture, Flash
- Stars: Long exposure, Low ISO, Medium Aperture, Tripod
- City Lights: Long exposure, Low ISO, Medium Aperture, Tripod
Matthew writes full-time for Solopress Printing Services. Solopress can bring your photographs and designs to life with their vast range of quality print services.