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Shooting in the Dark: Low Light Photography

Master Nighttime Photography without using Flash!

It’s Halloween season, which means spooky costumes, pounds of candy—and dark streets—amongst other tricky lighting issues. While flash is always an option, its intrusion can completely kill the natural, spooky vibe that can be really stunning (and fun). Here are some steps that we take to enhance our picture taking abilities at night.

Use a Tripod
As one of the simplest and sure shot ways to making sure your pictures are crisp and clear, tripods are lifesavers when it comes to night photography. It stabilizes your shot while the shutter is open. Without it, micro-jitters from your hands holding the camera will result in blurry images. Plus, with a tripod you can open the shutter for as long as you want—resulting sweet long exposures.

ISO 800, f/2.8, shutter speed: 30.0 sec on a tripod

ISO 800, f/2.8, shutter speed: 30.0 sec on a tripod

Use a wide aperture (F-stop)
Aperture is known to achieve those silky smooth shallow depths of fields where the foreground is in focus and the background is blurry—also known as bokeh. Surprisingly, that same trick can actually help once night falls. A wide aperture (small F-stop like F4 or lower) allows more light into the sensor, which results in clearer pictures—even without using a tripod. Note: there will still be a shallow depth of field at night. Hence, this is still ideal portrait photography—but if you’re looking for sharp backgrounds this option might not be the best one for you.

Graveyard Lighting

Increase your ISO
In addition to using a wide aperture, increasing your ISO speed will allow the maximum amount of light into the sensor. Think of the ISO as the exposure controller. A small ISO number like ISO 100 is most useful in direct sunlight when there is a lot of light coming into the camera, therefore you don’t need a lot of exposure help from the camera. Alternatively, an ISO of 800 is best used at night when there is minimal light out and you need your camera to help brighten the exposure. But be careful! Too high of an ISO will result in grainy or noisy pictures. A safe rule of thumb is to try to stay around ISO 800 when taking pictures at night.

iso-image

Use what’s around you! (Like, Ambient Light!)
One of the most simple tricks in the book is to use the objects around you to light up your subjects. Using things like a flashlight, candles, sparklers, glow sticks, or toys and props like jack-o-lanterns can easily give you just the right amount of light you need to take photos at night. It might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people forget how useful ambient light is when photographing at night.

Halloween Lighting

Let us know if these tricks are helpful! If you have anything to add to the conversation, be sure to tweet us at @bekandid!

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