Photography is the art of painting with light. When light has a role to play in the very basic meaning of photography, we know how important it is. In today’s world, photography is mostly done with half-frame and full-frame DSLRs. While the simple rules of photography and the techniques of using the manual mode most efficiently are known to all the photographers, we somehow always struggle with the low-lit conditions.
Be it any event or a party, a night outing or capturing the dusk, low light has its own vibe and capturing it properly, adds to the aesthetic capabilities and creativity of the photographer. Here are some tips that may come handy while shooting in low-light:
1. Increase the ISO
The higher the ISO number, the more is the camera’s sensor sensitive to light. Higher ISO brightens the subject while capturing a picture. In moderately-lit conditions, increasing the ISO to 800 may help. But always remember that increasing the ISO beyond 800, i.e. 1600, 3200, etc. adds grain to the picture in even high-end DSLRs. Sometimes this grainy effect adds a new feel to the image, however, it does not look good if the image is too underexposed. So ISO must be increased only to a certain limit beyond which the compensation should be done by aperture and shutter speed.
2. Open the aperture
Aperture is the opening of the lens which allows light to enter. Higher is the aperture, larger is the opening and greater is the amount of light reaching the sensors. Shooting at f/5.6 will let more amount of light in, rather than shooting at f/22. Note that higher is the numerical figure, smaller is the opening. Hence, keeping the camera at its minimum focal length can be helpful in low-light photography.
3. Slow down the shutter speed
The longer the shutter remains open, more is the amount of light being captured. So by slowing the shutter speed, you can well-illuminate a dark subject also. Although it must be remembered that no hand-held shots should be taken beyond the shutter speed of 1/60. If you are using a slower shutter speed than this, it is preferable to use a tripod. However, if you are using a stabilizer, you can take hand-held shots till even slower shutter speeds.
4. Avoid the in-built flash
Even though it might seem to be a great idea to use the in-camera pop-up to immediately light up a dark subject, but the in-camera flash tends to make the image look flat. It falls on the subject directly and thus the image loses its contrast and shadow. It is, hence, suggested that the in-built flash should be avoided.
5. Use an external flash
It can be an added expense to invest in an external flash but it is the best way to tackle dimly lighted situations. Place the flash in such an angle that it does not fall on the subject perpendicularly and makes it look flat. Use reflecting surfaces or diffusers to soften the additional light. Using an external flash not only deals with the crisis of low-light but also adds to the tonal contrast of the image, which when balanced, makes an image look very aesthetic.
6. Use a temporary source of light
In case of planned shoots, you can always carry external light sources like white light bulbs and LEDs which provide good illumination and also add to the feel of the ambiance. A properly placed tungsten bulb can give good lighting effect to the image as well as give chances to play with the hue and tint.
7. Toggle your camera’s exposure compensation
Any normal entry-level DSLR provides a range of exposure compensation from -3 to +3 with an increment in 1/3 stops. The exposure compensation of high-end DSLRs is even greater, ranging from -5 to +5. Toggle the exposure compensation and take it to the positive side to overexpose the image intentionally. By overexposing the picture, you allow your camera to let in more amount of light that required and hence, the result is a brighter image.
8. Use tripods or stabilizers
Increasing the shutter speed is one of the best ways of illuminating the picture without getting into the trouble of grains or limitation of minimum aperture is by increasing the shutter speed. But if you increase the shutter speed to very high limits like 1/250, then even a slight jerk can make your whole image look shaky. To avoid this and shoot efficient in a low light area, it is recommended to add a stabilizer to your camera. Otherwise, you can also go for a tripod in case of shooting at the same location.
9. Keep an eye on the white-balance
While most people prefer to use auto white-balance or one of the presets already provided in the camera, it is suggested by most photographers that white balance should be adjusted manually. As the subject turns darker, the harder it gets for the camera to adjust the white balance on its own. White-balance is the most important component of photography which defines the color shades your picture will pick. So, by adjusting to the correct white-balance, photography in low-light can be a bit easier.
10. Avoid zooming
Zoom is nothing but cropping an image before it is taken. Just like cropping a picture causes a compression in the quality and grains appear, zooming in low-light can also give the same troubles. Thus it is advised to avoid zooming as much as you can in case of photography in low-light. If a close-up shot is very much required, then it is preferable to move closer to the subject rather than zooming.
11. Shoot RAW pictures
RAW images are unprocessed and uncompressed images which produce an output very rich in quality. Thus, shooting RAW pictures gives a wide scope of editing the picture properly in the post-production stage. The brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows can be adjusted properly by making the image look good, without losing onto the quality.
All these tips are very important to remember while attempting to shoot some great shots in the dearth of light. Time waits for none and similarly, you can come across a great frame in any lighting condition. Thus, all the points must be kept in practice by every aspiring photographer to create a unique masterpiece of his own.
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