With this article on How To Take Low Light Photos, I want to try to create a task list, or procedure, suitable for dealing with a difficult situation for taking pictures in low light.
SITUATIONS WHERE YOU WILL SURELY FIND YOU
But what does it take? You will never happen to photograph in difficult situations from a light point of view, you just need to be careful. And badly I give up taking pictures to enjoy the moment.
What the hell am I saying? !
We are so addicted to the habit of sharing experiences, that we have now lost the ability to enjoy situations without taking home a small piece of it in the form of videos or photos.
Just go to a live music concert to find out; people who pay even 40 or 70 Dollars for a ticket and then enjoy it all through the smartphone screen to register it… Absurd, but that’s the way it is.
Fortunately, many cases are justified. Situations in which we have the impression that we can do without taking a photo, but were not to do so would almost be a crime!
I try to list a series of situations, the first that comes to mind, where I found myself out of the blue:
- during a birthday with friends, it is evening and I want to take those good times home with me;
- during a live concert, I’m having fun with my friends and I want to take a picture with them;
- during a vacation, in the evening strolling along a coast or strolling through the city although it is illuminated
- walking during the summer evenings;
But “ shooting in low light ” doesn’t necessarily mean being in the dark or in the evening. Other low light situations you may find yourself in are:
- during a volleyball match, in a sports hall;
- in a house, inside a room, where they ask me to take a souvenir photo with my uncles, grandmothers, and relatives.
In all situations where the lack of light is not obvious, it seems that there is, but in reality, it is a soft but diffused light that gives the impression of being “_tanta_”.
HOW TO ADDRESS THE SITUATION WITH METHOD
You cannot always work miracles, many times you will find yourself facing situations where the technical limits of your camera or smartphone will not give you alternatives, but until you are sure that you have reached them, you will always have the doubt that you have forgotten something.
If you want to take photos in such contexts you must:
- make the sensor more sensitive to light
- send as much light as possible to the sensor
To be honest, all cameras are capable of shooting in low light, but the problem is that they just increase the exposure time. If you are trying to take a picture of yourself with friends and the camera needs a shutter speed of 2 seconds you also know how difficult it is to stay all still.
Better to act methodically by putting your hands on the camera settings.
Also read : How To Take Low Light Photos
MAKE THE SENSOR MORE SENSITIVE TO LIGHT
In your camera settings, you can increase the values of a parameter called ISO. These values range from a low number ( ISO 100 for example, but could also be as low as 200 or 50, depending on the camera ) and can be increased. As the value is increased, the sensor becomes more sensitive to light, a bit like night vision goggles do, even if it is a somewhat extreme example.
Increasing the ISO allows the sensor to capture and make visible even that little light available. To do this, however, I recommend that you read the instruction manual of your camera well to understand where to intervene.
The side effect of this procedure is that the more you increase the ISO parameter value, the worse the photo we get. In fact, the increase of the ISO parameter, which makes the sensor more sensitive to light, causes a visual defect called DIGITAL NOISE to appear. A kind of graininess and loss of detail in the image.
There are cameras that perform better than others. If you have a SLR you will certainly be able to increase the ISO to very high values compared to the limits of a compact or smartphone.
Also read: Best Cameras For Landscape Photography
GET MORE LIGHT TO THE SENSOR
The other avenue to explore is to open the aperture to the maximum so that you can be sure that your camera is able to capture all the light possible.
If you have a camera with manual controls (_you should have a ring with some of these indications: M, P, Av, A, S, Tv_ …) you must do this:
- If you have a zoom lens, set it to the shortest focal length. In practice at the lowest magnification.
- Choose the Av or A mode ( depending on the make and model they may be different ) which corresponds to the Aperture Priority. Set the lowest value possible (it could be 2.8 or 3.5 or even different … the important thing is that it is the lowest value that your camera allows ).
Why did I make you adopt this system?
- A shorter focal length allows the lens to frame a much larger area of the landscape, and consequently capture much more light than a narrow frame.
- A shorter focal length reduces the magnification and consequently also the incidence of micro-blur (if you shoot freehand obviously).
- At the shortest focal length, in standard zooms, you can take advantage of the maximum aperture. In kit zooms (such as the classic 18–55) the maximum aperture at the 55mm focal length is not the same as you can get by setting the focal length to 18mm.
If you have a compact camera, choose night mode. If you see that it uses too long shutter speeds, try sport mode. However, I recommend that you consult your camera manual for more information and details on how to proceed.
FIRST CONCLUSIONS ON How To Take Low Light Photos
I advise you to increase the ISO to the maximum value, see how the photo looks, and then gradually reduce the value until you see that the shutter speeds do not become too slow to manage them freehand. Obviously with the diaphragm open to the maximum.
If by setting the maximum ISO value, and with the aperture at the minimum value, you are unable to obtain satisfactory results then you have reached the technical limits of your camera/smartphone.
The only alternatives are to use the flash, as long as the conditions allow it.
Also read: why do photographers always wear black?
THE FLASH IS NOT ALWAYS WELCOME
I think the idea of using flash was the first you thought of. In reality, the flash is not always the right choice and should only be used after careful consideration. In many contexts, I personally believe in everyone, the flash is too invasive and tends to disturb those around you:
- If you try to use the flash during a live concert, you risk being kicked out or having your camera stolen.
- Photographing athletes with a flash is the worst thing you can do.
I advise you to avoid it and use it only in extreme situations.
Also read: Best Strobe Lights For Photography
USE CAMERA STABILIZATION
You may also want to consider taking advantage of your camera stabilizer.
Many, all of them now, have this feature that dampens vibrations on the sensor or lens so you can take freehand photos even with slow shutter speeds.
In reality, it is a false advantage because the stabilizer allows you to take freehand photos even with slow shutter speeds, but it does not prevent the photographed subjects from moving.
There is a stabilizer that allows you to take pictures even with shutter speeds of 30 seconds, don’t you know? It’s called TRIPOD… I’m throwing it a little laugh, but the concept is the same: even if they invented a stabilizer that allows you to take 5-second freehand photos, this also doesn’t allow the photographed subjects to remain still. Try having children pose for a photo for over 5 seconds if you can, not to mention a volleyball player who may be about to hit a dunk.
PHOTO-RETOUCH AS A FRIEND
I hardly recommend using photo-retouching to improve obviously bad photos. I usually recommend taking the photo again. But in this context, it could be a weapon in your favor.
As I have already told you there are situations where the light conditions do not allow you to exceed the technical limits of your camera or smartphone, in these cases the photo usually cannot be taken. However, photo retouching software can help you out. That’s how:
- If you are forced to increase the ISO value so much that the image is very damaged, then take advantage of the software to apply a noise reduction. Now all software is equipped with noise reduction systems, that is, they intervene on the image to reduce the defects caused by ISOs that are too high.
- Shoot in RAW and use a bit slower shutter speed, so you can take a freehand photo, even if you find yourself a dark photo. Later, in post-production, you will exploit the potential of RAW to lighten the photo.
FINAL CONCLUSIONS ON Low light portrait photography settings
In low light, it is very difficult to take a photo home. These are the worst conditions in which a photographer can find himself ( basically “photography” means “writing with light”, and if there is no light it is impossible to write ). Modern cameras, with their ability to raise ISO to very high values, and post-production software, however, can give you a big hand, in some cases to the limit of the imaginable. If you find yourself in these conditions, remember the basic steps mentioned in this guide on How To Take Low Light Photos.
Also read : Unrivaled Guide to Long Exposure Photography