Low-light photography is difficult, but it is worthwhile to practice. Here’s what to look for in a low-light camera and lens, as well as some pointers for beginners on artificial illumination. low lEven when there isn’t much to work with, great photography is all about light. If you know how to work with low light, you can unleash incredible creative potential. You can take amazing images in almost any scenario if you have a capable low-light camera, the correct settings, and strong technique.
How to Select the Best Low-Light Camera
If you’re primarily photographing in low light, the ISO range of a camera should take precedence over all other specifications. Examine both the native ISO range and the enhanced ISO range. In general, a full-frame sensor will serve you better in this area than a crop frame sensor. In order of beefiness, full-frame cameras with very wide exposure latitudes include the following:
This is a professional DSLR with shooting capabilities of up to 14 frames per second, 4K recording, and ultra-fast wired LAN networking technology for seamless data transfer. While the ISO range is impressive, so is the price. This camera is intended for professionals, but serious enthusiasts will adore it as well.
This is also a professional DSLR with raw recording at 5.5 frames per second and shooting speeds of up to 20 frames per second. These qualities are what drive the price of this camera, so if you only shoot in low light, it will be far too pricey. This camera is intended for high-end commercial shooting or for speed-obsessed hobbyists.
At first appearance, this camera appears to be similar to the ones below, but it costs twice as much. The reason behind this is that, with its 20 FPS, big buffer, and nearly little display latency, this camera is built for super high-speed filming. It also features more professional networking options, such as a LAN terminal for super-fast data transfer. It’s an excellent option for serious sports, wildlife, and event shooters.
This is Panasonic’s first full-frame mirrorless system, and it was created with hybrid shooters in mind, featuring a nice mix of photography and videography specs. Unlimited 4K, in-body stabilization, full-size HDMI out, and a respectable 9 frames per second. This camera combines some of the professional features of the Varicam and EVA1 with the portability (and approachability) of the GH series.
This is a well-rounded camera with excellent features. In most cases, 10 frames per second is sufficient. You have the option of capturing a 4K video. The connectivity choices are adequate, but there is no PC Sync connector — only a hot shoe. However, you may attach headphones, a microphone, and output through Micro-HDMI.
Nikon D780, Canon EOS R6, and Nikon Z6 are among the other models that have a maximum ISO of 200,000.
How to Choose the Best Low-Light Lens
Choosing a lens with a very wide maximum aperture, such as f/1.4 or f/1.2, can be quite beneficial, however, apertures that wide are often found in
A) prime lenses (which are confined to a single focal length/angle of view) and
B) very expensive lenses. A maximum aperture of f/2.8 is considered extremely good for zoom lenses.
Aside from that, search for lenses that have image stabilization. The lens may not be able to go any wider than, say, f/4, but with image stabilization, you may get away with slowing down your shutter more and catching less camera wobble blur in your photographs. With an f/4 lens, you can’t rely on the aperture as much for extreme low light exposure, but you can rely on the shutter a little more. If you can’t find an f/2.8 zoom, look for one with stabilization at f/4.
Image stabilization devices are rated for various levels of efficacy, but most will provide you with three stops of stabilization. In other words, if you generally need a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second when hand holding a lens to minimize shakiness, image stabilization should allow you to shoot at 1/15th of a second.
A reasonable rule of thumb is to choose a shutter that is no slower than the length of your lens (unless you’re doing pans or long exposures on purpose). So, if you’re using a 50mm lens, you can get away with hand-holding and shooting at 1/50th of a second without too much difficulty. However, for a 200mm lens, 1/50th is just too slow to hand-hold without shake (unless you’re very strong and very steady). You’ll need something closer to 1/200th of a second.
When you couple your lens with a low light camera, it can be rather irrelevant because the camera will most likely already have broad latitude, allowing you to not rely on aperture at all except for creative reasons (like bokeh). But the point here is that ISO isn’t everything. Good glass is beneficial.
Getting to Know a Tripod
Using a tripod will fix many low-light issues, but not all of them. A tripod will keep things steady for lengthy exposures, but it won’t help you much if you’re filming an activity. If you’re going to shoot static subjects, get used to using a tripod. At first, they feel extremely burdensome. Look for carbon fiber tripods to help with this, since they will be a lot easier to transport. Look for one that folds down as much as possible, preferably to less than 2′. Rent several tripods since you’ll acquire strong preferences: Is it better to use a twist-lock or a lever lock? There is a sandbag hook available? Is a sandbag hook even necessary? Is it better to have a middle bar or not? Spikes as an option? Spreader for the ground? Tripods are much more than you might believe!
The head will also play an important role. Is it better to have a ball head or a pistol grip? Do you require a pan bar? Can you use the L-bracket from your own camera on it? How quickly can you change from a horizontal to a vertical perspective? Using this thing in the field and becoming frustrated (or falling in love with it) will inform you where to invest your money.
Give Yourself Some Lighting Lessons
Modern cameras have fantastic ambient light-capturing capabilities, but whether for artistic reasons or because you’ve reached the technological limit, you’ll eventually discover you need to learn how to deal with artificial light.
There are techniques for incorporating artificial lighting into your photographs in an ambient-like manner. For example, taking night pictures when the model is only illuminated by neon signs is a current trend. Neon signs don’t emit a lot of light, but if you approach close enough, they can brighten the scene sufficiently. Make use of the inverse square law: moving two times closer to a light source will give you four times the amount of light on the subject.
If you’re new to using flash, avoid the camera’s pop-up flash and instead use a Speedlight to practice bouncing the light off a ceiling, wall, or whiteboard. This is an excellent beginning step toward experimenting with indirect lighting effects. Other fast lighting laws to remember include:
- The greater the size of your light source, the softer your shadows. This is why portrait artists prefer larger softboxes.
- The sharper the shadows, the fewer angles your light is coming from. Do you want to create a creepy Halloween lighting effect? For strong shadows, place one tiny light on your subject at an extreme angle.
- White reflects light. Use this to your advantage when practicing flash bouncing.
More information can be found in Simple Lighting Laws to Improve Shooting Performance.
You can be extremely low-fi while yet experimenting with artificial illumination. Any light source, when combined with a sensitive camera, will provide you with something to work with. Don’t be put off by the prospect of large flashes! Household lamps and even computer monitors can provide enough light to create a melancholy atmosphere.
To assist with focusing, use AF Assist (or a flashlight).
Even on incredibly good low-light cameras, focusing systems suffer when it becomes dark. Your camera will most likely be unable to discern whether or not you are in focus if there is insufficient contrast.
The good news is that many cameras offer an autofocus assist mode that shines a little light on the subject while focusing. But don’t worry if your camera lacks one! Another light source (such as a flashlight or the light on your phone) can be used to illuminate your subject long enough for you to focus. Turn off the light, set the lens to manual focus (so it doesn’t search for focus again), and take the image.
Photograph in RAW Format
With all of the limitations of low-light photography, shooting in raw can allow you to save an image that would otherwise be unrecoverable if shot in JPEG. When you save a JPEG, the camera does its own picture processing. You can’t undo the processing your camera did when you import the image. Raw files, on the other hand, have not been treated in any way. You have more control over changing exposure and white balance when you upload them into Photoshop and Lightroom. It’s remarkable what you can recover from a raw file in underexposed scenes.
Prioritize the Gold and Blue Hours Over All Other Times of the Day
Fortunately, the day does not transition from light to dark in an instant. You can plan what time of day you want to shoot as a photographer to make it easier to achieve a specific effect. If you go at the incorrect time of day, it may necessitate extensive editing or possibly be impossible to acquire your photo.
Aim for blue hours (immediately before or after sunrise) or golden hours (at sunrise and sunset). When you’re out and about during the blue hour, it won’t feel like you’re doing “night photography,” but your photographs will still convey the feeling of “night” to the viewer. You want to combine the fading (evening) or rising (morning) light with the hazy glow of a metropolis or the scarcely visible stars. Night photographs are beautiful, but twilight images are often much better, especially for cityscapes.
Photography is an art form that requires practice to master. With practice, you’ll learn which settings work best in which situations and which produce the desired results. A low-light camera will surely make your job easier, but it will not accomplish everything for you. The more you practice and think, attempting to figure out what worked and what didn’t, the more pictures you’ll be pleased with.
Low light photography might be difficult, but it is also very common and well worth learning. Wedding receptions, sporting events, street photography – not to mention all of the times you’re forced to shoot indoors — all of these circumstances are notorious for providing less-than-ideal lighting. The good news is that none of the difficulties associated with low-light photography are insurmountable. With a little practice, the correct equipment, and a basic understanding of a few techniques, you can be ready to confront any lighting challenge.
What is the optimum camera setting for low light?
The following are the best camera settings for low-light photography:
Manual is the mode.
1′′ – 1/60 shutter speed
ISO range: 1200–1800.
F/2.8 or wider aperture
Focusing: Manual (MF)
AWB (Automatic White Balance).
Single Shot is the drive mode.
RAW is the image format.
How can a lack of light influence the quality of a photograph?
Overexposure causes the photosites on the sensor to become saturated,’ which means they have filled up with the light signal and can no longer contain it. This will result in photographs with blown-out highlights that are completely white, with no detail captured.
What ISO setting is best for low-light photography?
A lower ISO produces sharper photographs, whereas a higher ISO produces more image noise (grain). Set your ISO to 800 and adjust accordingly for low-light shooting.
What is the ideal shutter speed for low-light situations?
Set your shutter speed to a tenth of the focal length for clear, blur-free shots in low light. So, if you’re shooting with a 50mm lens, set the shutter speed to 1/50 second. If you’re using a 30mm lens, use a 1/30 shutter speed.
Which lens is ideal for photographing the night sky?
Because you want to catch as much light from the sky as possible, you should choose a wide-angle lens with a large maximum aperture (f/2.8 or lower). On a full-frame camera, a 14-24mm wide-angle zoom lens is suitable, whereas, on a crop-sensor camera, a 10-20mm lens is ideal.