I read a post about low light photography on another website that I thought was going to give the reader some amazing insight, instead the first point on the list was to buy new equipment. I was a little disappointed as I was expecting it to be about how to get the best of what you have, not spend more money to get better photos. So here are a few quick tips to use what you have to get better photos.
This shot was taken at 16mm and hand held at 1/8th of a second. I have steady hands.
If you only have the lens that come with your camera, and the lens has floating aperture and ranges from F3.5 – 5.6, it makes sense to use the lens at the F3.5 aperture setting, which means you wont be able to zoom. You will need to use foot zoom instead (walking closer)
Use a high ISO, most new cameras have at least ISO 1600 many have ISO 6400 and beyond, yes the picture will have noise, but, is a noisy picture that is not blurry better than a blurry photo, don’t be scared to use the highest setting and see what the pictures look like. If you are not blowing the images up and making them large, the noise will be insignificant in some cases.
Use a slower shutter speed, if you are using the lens that comes with your camera, and using it at F3.5 it also means your lens will be at about 18mm focal length. The general rule for hand holding a camera is 1/focal length, in this case 1/18 (say 1/20th), it is best to test how good you are at hand holding these sorts of speeds, or even testing if you have steady hands and can hold it steady for an even slower shutter speed. Note: if you are photographing moving subjects this will not really work, unless you are panning with them. Best to brace yourself or use something to keep you steady.
This shot was taken at 70mm and at 1/8th of a second, hand held, I used a tree to help me hand hold this at such a slow speed.
Be aware that your cameras light meter may not be reading the scene properly, if you are in a dark room and taking a picture of a person blowing out the candles on a cake, the dark room will make the camera expose for the darkness in the room, not the brightness of the candle, you can change the settings to suit the light of the candle, give it a try.
If you don’t own a tripod, you can always use a chair, bin, can, drum or anything else you can rest your camera on. A small bean bag works or bag of rice works a treat. Note: you get to eat the rice after too. You can even put your camera on the ground which gives you a different perspective as well.
If you do not have a cable release which is a device that allows you to remotely trigger the shutter with out jarring the camera when you press the shutter button, you can set your cameras self timer which is a 10 second delay, the setting that allows you to get into the picture.
This image was taken using the self timer, as I did not have a self timer, it was one of the first images I took on my Canon 300D camera with the lens that came with the camera.
By using the above strategies and testing your camera so that you understand how it will work in these situations, the next time you are in a poorly lit room, you will be better prepared to tackle the little light you have head on.