Thursday, 19 February 2009

Com Tech: Low Light Tips & Tricks

Ok, so a lot of this may seem like common sense but until you are in the situation, you just don't know what you will need. So here is what I have learn so far, most of which I was counting on having to use but you really need to use all of them to get your shots at their best.
  • Firstly, you will NEED a sturdy tripod. During a long exposure the slightest movement can ruin your shot and blur your image and you can't take a log exposure hand-held.
  • Make sure you have a stopwatch or timer (I use the one on my phone) for use during the bulb setting so that you can time your exposures correctly.
  • Take a torch! Not so much to see where you are going, but to light up your subject enabling you to focus more accurately.
  • Use a cable release or set your camera's shutter to timer to reduce camera shake.
  • Turn off IS (if you have it). You won't need t while using a tripod ad it will only create more noise in your image.
  • Shoot RAW. You will be able to recover hidden details, reduce noise and if needs be, alter your exposure without damaging the image too much.
  • Time it right! The best time to shoot is when the light is fading or at sunrise. You will capture more detail in your subjects and the colours will be more natural. When shooting after dark in an urban environment, the sky will start to turn orange because of the light pollution.
  • If you're shooting in RAW, your white balance isn't as much of a major issue as it can be adjusted later. However, the 'daylight' WB setting is best as it will bring out the colours in your shot.
  • Use the 'Mirror Lock up' function. This again, will reduce the vibrations in the camera giving you a much sharper image.
  • Scout your locations. This is often easier during the day, especially if you're in a rather precarious location. Scouting at night will allow you know what to expect with both natural and man-made lighting conditions. You can also pick your spots and work out compositions in advance.
  • Do a test shoot. This will allow you again, to get to know the area better as well as work out exactly what time you need to be there and set up. It will also give you a better idea of uncontrollable aspects, such as pedestrians, traffic and anything else that will be out of your control.
  • Make sure you know the area, especially if it is urban. I wouldn't advise shooting on your own at night as you are more vulnerable so take someone with you. If your location is a bit 'risky', it would be sensible to take minimal equipment, a personal alarm and go in a group. Basic common sense, but these things do happen.
  • If you're shooting from indoors through a window, make sure you can turn the lights off to reduce reflection. If this isn't possible, take a thick blanket with you to cover both yourself and the camera. This again, will keep reflections to a minimum.

I will add more to this list as I think or experience things so please check back occasionally.

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