Master low light photography
You don't need daylight or studio lighting to capture great images with your Canon; experiment with low light to uncover new possibilities
Shooting in daylight is something we take for granted, after all it's when the majority of our shots are taken, but when it comes to mood and setting, low light is hard to beat. Shooting in low light is a skill that utilises your camera's sensor capabilities for noise reduction and ISO sensitivity, as well as your lens' aperture range. When you set the ISO on your camera, you adjust its sensitivity to light. On a standard DSLR your typical ISO range would be 100 to 1600, and on higher-end DSLRs the range would be from LO 1.0, lower than 100, to HI 1.0, higher than 6400.
Low light doesn't mean no light
By shooting in low light, it doesn't have to mean the dead of night. In this image a warming filter and a cool colour balance have been used to shoot a model in uncovered low lighting conditions
Know your ISO
A general guide to understanding ISO is that 100 is suitable for the brightest sunny day or studio lighting; 400 is for a typical day - slightly overcast, but still bright. ISO 800 would be for indoor use and anything higher, 1600 or upward, is used in darker conditions such as night or music photography. The interesting thing with ISO is that when it is increased, you see better results from some other values such as shutter speed and aperture. This allows you to shoot at a faster frame rate; a boost for wildlife and sports photographers, or those who want a narrower aperture for extensive depth of field.
High ISO can, however, create digital noise. This is the same as the grain you would have received from your film choice back in the day as it is individual pixels of the sensor reading data. However, with camera sensors now having a higher megapixel rating and construction becoming more advanced, digital noise is becoming a moot point. This is also true if you are familiar with editing software, because any noise can easily be removed using dedicated tools.
To get the best results from low light shooting, you should always carry a sturdy tripod with you. Because you are taking from one to give to the other in exposure value terms, be prepared to sacrifice your shutter speed first. If you are shooting a landscape and the air is calm, you can afford to drop your shutter speed so that you can let light into the sensor for longer, reducing the noise and keeping a narrower aperture. This is why you will need a tripod; you can keep the camera perfectly still and ire the shot either remotely or using the timer option.
As with most techniques, there is a caveat and that is the extra light being let in will have a warmer tone, setting the colour temperature to a warmer point on the Kelvin scale. To fix this, assess the lighting and adjust your white balance accordingly.
Obviously the art to low light shooting is that you aim for a true rendition of what the eye sees at night by using available light. You want to see the ambient lights and colours, so that rules out using a lash, right? Wrong. If you have a lash gun that can pivot at an angle, be powered down manually or can be fired remotely, you can bounce the light back into the model's face. Firing directly at the model will bleach out detail and darken the background, so be cautious of your angle.
|Always be prepared to shine|
|If you are travelling to a location, always make sure you have a torch at hand. Not just to see where you are going, but also so you can light paint. Light painting is a technique where you steady your camera on a tripod and by using either a shutter release cable or a long exposure time, you then expose your image to the available light and define your subject by washing over it with torch light. Cool LED lights are the best to use for this, as the cooler temperature of the LEDs cut through the natural warmth created by long exposure to light.|