Low-light photography

I LOVE this time of year!  Crisp sunshine, stunning sunsets.  I practically explode with anticipation when I know it’s going to be a clear frosty evening!  I have always enjoyed the challenge of capturing those colours, long exposures bring their own challenges but in the early evening, the need for F-stop filters can be ignored!  I am lucky to live close to the coast, so this is usually where I head for some low-light fun.  Here’s a small selection of what I have taken over the past few weeks.

 

I haven’t run a low-light workshop yet, but I have invited anyone who wanted to join me to come along and keep me company!  We share ideas and techniques, spot shots and generally thoroughly enjoy ourselves and the results!  So if you would like to know when I’m next setting off a low-light adventure, keep an eye out on Facebook,  on our photography club page (have you joined yet?  come on in!) and Instagram.

So, how do you shoot in low light?  See the tips below:

 

Equipment required:

Camera – it works better with an SLR or bridge type camera

Tripod – non-negotiable – or at least a way to keep the camera STILL for long periods of time

Head Torch – makes it easier to see your camera controls – also gives other people a good laugh!

Spare battery – night time shots eat up battery power – especially if it’s cold

If it’s cold – an extra warm coat.  You’re going to be standing around, rather than moving, therefore you’ll feel the cold more

Gloves, hat, scarf etc

Firstly – your personal safety is paramount.  Be sensible, tell someone where you are going to be and avoid dodgy, dark areas please.  NEVER take risks with your safety.  Go with friends preferably.

 

Camera setting options:

Night-time shots/dusk shots allow you to play around much more with longer exposures, without the need for a filter.  You can hold the shutter open for longer (to allow time for more light to hit the sensor) without over exposing your shots.

TIP:  Use early evening light, ALWAYS shoot with colour in the sky, not utter darkness, your photos will look much more impressive!

Place your camera on your tripod.  Find SOLID ground so there is less chance of the tripod moving.  Now your camera is on a tripod; camera shake is not a consideration.

 

  1. Switch off image stabilisation on your lens! When a camera is on a tripod, the IS system in the lens, continuously tries to stabilise and in doing so, the mechanisms create gentle camera shake and therefore adds blur!
  2. Set to aperture priority (A or AV), that way the camera will choose your shutter speed for you, rather than you having to guess. Note; the longest exposure using this method is 30 seconds
  3. Select your metering option – switch to spot metering
  4. Set a low ISO 100 or less if possible (200 is fine)
  5. Set aperture to a minimum of F8 (if it’s still quite light – use a higher number F22-F32 to minimise the amount of light coming in)
  6. Set your self-timer to 2 secs (this allows you to compose, focus and press the shutter – but it means that when the shutter opens – YOU are not touching the camera and inadvertently causing camera shake.)
  7. Keep your hands and body AWAY from the camera and tripod – I see so many people LEAN on their tripod as they are taking long exposures! This will still cause camera shake
  8. Take photos!!

 

Images too dark?  Make your aperture larger (choose a smaller F-stop number) to allow more light in OR over expose your images slightly using the over exposure compensation on your camera.

 

Images too light?  Make your aperture smaller (larger F-stop number) or UNDER expose your images.

 

The images taken on my camera are generally:

F32 – F22, ISO 100, spot metered, 2 sec self-timer, I compose carefully and let the camera choose the shutter.

 

Play with these settings.  So, for the under-pier shots (where it’s sheltered and darker than usual) I can take a longer exposure and capture the movement of the sea as a soft blur, without over exposing the shot.  Usually, to achieve this in daylight, you would need to use an F-stop filter to darken the front of your lens which restricts the amount of light entering the lens even further.  This is one of the reasons why I like low-light photography, you can play without the need for additional filters etc.

 

Yes, there is some post-production in Lightroom (I always shoot in RAW) but not a huge amount.  I’ll cover this in another post.

Right you lovely lot, go and have fun and let’s see some of your amazing results!