Top five low light photography tips
With cloudier skies and murkier conditions now upon us, taking decent photos becomes more challenging. Here are our top five low light photography tips to give you the best chance of shooting excellent shots as the darker days draw in.
Choosing and buying the best digital camera – read our expert guide
1. Use a high ISO setting
In digital cameras, ISO is a measure of the sensitivity of the image sensor – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations however the cost is noisier shots.
Most people tend to keep their digital cameras in ‘Auto Mode’ where the camera selects the ISO setting it feels is most appropriate, but many cameras also give you the opportunity to select your own ISO in the settings menu.
Below is an example of a picture taken at two ISO settings. The picture on the left was shot with a standard ISO 800 setting whereas the picture on the right was show at ISO 100. You can see the fist image is brighter and brings out more detail in the shadier areas of the shot.
2. Use aperture priority mode
In auto mode, a camera will be choosing the shutter speed and aperture size it thinks is most appropriate. By putting your camera into aperture priority mode you can take control of the aperture, opening it wider in low-light conditions to let in more light and brighten up the shot.
The downside of this is that a wider aperture means a more shallow depth of field where the main subject will be in focus but objects in the foreground and background get thrown out of focus – so you may need to experiment to find the best compromise.
Below is an example of a picture taken at two different aperture settings. The brighter picture on the left was shot with a much larger aperture compared to the photo on the right.
3. Use flash indoors
It may sound obvious but using flash will brighten up and image and it’s often the only way to achieve a decent indoor shot. Beware, the effective range of the flash is limited – a point-and-shoot camera’s flash runs out of steam after about 3m from the camera. So don’t expect the flash to work miracles and keep the shooting distance between yourself and the subject to a minimum.
Below is an example of a portrait shot taken with and without flash – the subject is much more evenly illuminated and the effects of shadows is reduced in the first shot.
4. Shoot in RAW mode if possible
If you camera lets you shoot in RAW format if possible. This is an uncompressed file format that delivers higher image quality and gives you far greater flexibility to process your images on your computer using photo editing software, correcting for any deficiencies in the original shot.
The downside is that RAW files are much larger than jpegs, so the storage capacity of your camera will be severely reduced and you may have to invest in an extra memory card.
5. Use photo-editing software
Once you’ve taken your shot in the field you have the option of using photo editing software back at home to try and improve your image. You can correct for exposure, lightening your shots and also play with the colour balance and other settings.
There are a number of professional and semi-professional packages that offer immense editing control over you pictures but they can be expensive. However, there is a good free package known as Pixlr which is also very good.
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