One of the trickiest issues that plague photographers is the absence of light or to make it a tag easier, insufficient light to shoot pictures in. You would ask what the difference is. Well, absence of light means completely dark and I don’t think there is a camera that can shoot pictures in total darkness. Insufficient light on the other hand means when there is light, no doubt, but the quantity is so miniscule that it is difficult to hope for a proper exposure. The human eye is a true marvel of nature’s ingenuity. It can adapt to both strong and low light enabling us to see in any conditions. No camera has come even close to mimic the kind of light sensitiveness and dynamic range that the human eye is capable of, and we are not even nature’s best! Some animals can see in almost total darkness, but that’s beside the point. Photographers have been doing all sorts of things in order to get the perfect exposure in low light conditions. Here are a few essential low light photography tips that will save your day (and evening for that matter).
Your survival guide: some essential low light photography tips
The first thing that most people think of when low light photography tips are talked about is how to shoot pictures at night when there is not enough natural light to go around. However there are a host of situations, in daytime, when insufficient light can hamper your pictures, such as when the subject is under a tree or a building or say when you’re shooting inside a room with curtains drawn and lights put out. In all these situations you’re basically working in a low light situation. These low light photography tips address all those situations.
Many times when we are at a scene and we look around, the light seems somewhat okay. So that inspires us to take pictures. While reviewing the images on the camera’s LCD it further fools us by representing a picture that is bright. But the real shocker awaits us when we download the images to our computer. Almost all of them look under exposed, blurred or flat. The reason is that the human eye is capable of seeing a much wider dynamic range, much wider than even the best of professional DSLRs can. The images thus on close scrutiny appears either blurred or noisy or lacking the dynamic range.
To avoid blurriness in your photos, a slightly faster shutter speed is required. What is the ideal shutter speed to shoot at when you’re using, say, a wide angle lens? Many factors are to be considered to come to an answer. Are you using a tripod? Are you using a stabilized lens (one that comes with an optical image stabilization system)? What is the Aperture Value that you’re using? If you’re using a tripod, it does not matter really as you can use any shutter speed as you like as long as you have no noise in the pictures. If you’re not using a tripod then your lens ought to come with some sort of image stabilization. If not, then use the old relation between focal length and shutter speed. So normally if the first exposure comes blurry using a 50mm at 1/30th try another one with a shutter speed 1/60th or even higher.
Having said that, isn’t faster shutter speed mean less light? Yes, it does and that’s why when using a faster shutter speed you will need to open up the aperture. So if you were using an aperture of f/5.6 initially, use a smaller f-stop such as f/4 or even f/2.8 to gather more light. Remember the relation between f-stop and shutter speed. Every time you open the aperture by one stop, you can increase the shutter speed by one corresponding stop.
Modern digital cameras come with exceptional image processors. Thanks to them it is now possible to shoot at ridiculously high ISO of 6400, 12800 and even more. Purists have been advocating low light photography tips with the use of smaller ISO numbers when shooting in low light. They say it helps to bypass the problem of digital ‘noise’. That’s a good way to go, for starters. But don’t hesitate to tweak your ISO to a higher number, in case you’re using one of those latest DSLRs with the next generation image processors built-in.