Low light photography includes pictures taken indoors, on cloudy days, at dusk or dawn and at night. Light is a primary element of a photography. As the photographer you must be able to control the light so you can take the perfect picture. Taking better pictures isn’t that difficult once you know what you’re doing. The first obstacle in low light may simply focusing on your subject, if your camera starts to “hunt” (focus back and forth with out finding a sharp subject) you may have to switch to manual focus. Once you start to change any of the basic exposure setting it will have an affect on at least 1 of the others.
Tools of the trade for low light
- High ISO
- Cable release
- Fast lenses
How and Why – Longer exposure time
When available light is limited then you will have to either compromise another setting or add light to to the scene to create the photo you want. Te easiest way is simply to extend your exposure time, this allows more light to get in and will compensate for the lower available light. But like all compromises it may not be the correct one for your situation. With a longer exposure there are several side effects (if they are what you want or not will have to be a part of the creative process) . If your exposure becomes to long even the best “super steady shot” feature wont help, you will have to use a tripod to avoid a shake image. Longer exposure can add noise to an exposure, especially if you have any in camera DRO (Dynamic Range) settings. In addition to a tripod you may want to use a cable release to reduced any instability or camera movement when you press the shutter button. Also any movement with in the picture frame will be blurred e.g a car driving past or the wind blowing the leaves of a tree.
How and Why – ISO and Aperture
If extending the exposure time isn’t possible then you can adjust your ISO and/or the F stop. By increasing your ISO you increase the sensitivity of the chip set allowing it to capture more light in the same time frame. Another option is to “open” the aperture (set the F/ stop to a lower number), this will let more light in through the lens. Both these setting also have side effects. The higher my ISO the more susceptible we are to digital noise. And opening my F/stop will create a shallower Depth of field, also most lenses are not that sharp when fully open.
How and Why – Lenses
If you don’t have a lens that could be considered fast (approx f/ 2.8 or better) then you may wan to look at investing in one. Lenses such as sal50f18 (50mm 1.8 for crop cameras) and the sal50f14 (50mm 1.4 for full frame) are considered classic low light lenses, but they aren’t your only choice. There is an ever growing list of lenses from Sony and other manufactures (Sigma, Tamron, Zeiss etc). Prime lenses (non zoom) tend to have faster apertures than zoom lenses therefore they tend to fit the low light roll better.
How and Why – Flash
Of course if there isn’t enough light we can always add light using flash or other external light source. I have written a lot about flash already so I don’t know what extra I can add here other than using a flash to lighten up a room is easy, but using a flash to create nice light take time and practice. Read a few of my “wow thats flash” tagged blogs, they contain some info that will help.