Sunday, February 18, 2018

Learning Low Light Phototgraphy

May 30, 2012 by  



At their most primary level, all photographs are simply light interacting with chemicals. Photography requires light in almost every situation, so the more light you have the better off you'll be. Unfortunately, there are plenty of situations in which photographers do not have the benefit of added light, and thus are forced to think on the fly. Here are some tips for how you can use your camera without a flash to get great results in low light environments.

Think Ahead

If you're going somewhere where you think the light might be dim, plan to bring a tripod and some high speed film. Additionally, if you have the good fortune of having several cameras to choose from, be sure to select the camera that features the lowest F-Stop value - 1.7 or 1.5 is best for low light.

Keep Yourself Steady

No matter how open your aperture is, you're going to need lower shutter speeds and a tripod whenever possible. Placing your camera on a tripod will protect it from the shake of your body and will allow you to use even slower shutter speeds than would have been possible if you were relying entirely on your hands. If a tripod isn't available or appropriate, try resting your arms or camera on available surfaces whenever possible.

Speed Up Your Film

400 ISO film is what many consider to be the industry standard, but a film that slow is going to be a liability in a low light situation. If you are shooting stationary objects, you may be able to get away with slow shutter speeds and slow film, but if you're planning on getting pictures of moving targets like people you're going to need to go with 800 or above. Just know that as a the film ISO increases, so does the level of graininess. Film speeds over 800 are going to show considerable quality loss in the grain.

Blurry Can Be Good

As photographers, we often teach ourselves that blur is bad and clear is good. If you want to let your subjects move around a bit go ahead as the deliberate use of motion blur can make a great image. You will likely not end up with sharply focused photographs but the interest of a blurry picture is often more interesting than a bunch of stationary objects.


Light meters and humans are unreliable. If you're in low light and aren't sure your pictures will turn out, try bracketing your shots by taking 3 photos each with different exposure times. What you'll do is shoot one photograph at the shutter speed you think is correct, then shoot another one with the shutter speed turned to the value below that and then another turned to the value above. This serves as a bit of a safety net for your photographs. Besides, sometimes under or over exposing a photograph can turn out much better than what the light meter recommended.

Low light photography is an incredible challenge, especially if you're attempting to do it without the use of a flash. Equip yourself right, understand the nature of your film and camera, and consider every shot carefully. If you do all of these things, you won't be able to tell the difference between your low light photos and those shot during the day. Always focus on having fun while you shoot and don't worry too much about the end result and you'll end up learning to adapt to even the worst lighting environments.

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