Top Tips for Low-Light Photography: Shooting with a Camera

Top Tips for Low-Light Photography_ Shooting with a Camera -- The Riverside Library

Previously on Low-Light Photography Tips:

Just because it’s the dead of winter, doesn’t mean your photography time should decrease. If you’re constantly posting on Instagram to engage with your followers and grow your account, a reduced amount of photography time can be a real pain. Since the beginning of winter a few weeks ago, I’ve been trawling the internet for tips and tricks to beat that cold, dim winter light. Now, it’s time to share what I’ve learnt (I’ll do my best to be correct, but I might be wrong about a few things, forgive me).

I’ll be dividing this guide into four posts, the first is about general tips and tricks for taking photos in low-light the second (this one) talks about taking photos with a DSLR, mirrorless or other cameras with manual shooting capabilities. The third post will talk about using a phone or point and shoot camera and finally, the last post will cover editing for cold light.

Using a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

This is definitely my most recommended tip and trick for dealing with low/cold lighting. I use a Canon EOS M3, one of the mirrorless cameras in Canon’s range which I absolutely love and would definitely recommend to everyone. Mirrorless cameras are great, they’re smaller than DSLRs but have very similar (if not the same) abilities. Of course, there are things I dislike about my camera, but that’s a story for another day (or not, but let me know if you want a review of my M3).The best way to combat low light is to use manual mode – but don’t freak out, it’s not hard! When using a camera on manual shooting mode, there are a few settings to play around with to ensure the most amount of light is coming through your lens. The key three are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.The most obvious is, perhaps, ISO. But that’s the one we want to leave until the very end because high ISO can compromise the quality of your image.

A Crash Course in Aperture

If you’re not familiar with camera terms (I’m not super familiar, all I know about photography is from a two-hour lecture I eavesdropped on when I was at the public library one day), aperture refers to the hole that the light travels through. Aperture is usually denoted with f/# (# being a number, not a hashtag). My lens’ aperture spans from a f/3.5 to f/22. I used f/3.5 when I want particular objects to be focussed, and other objects to be blurred, so most of my Instagram photos are taken with this kind of aperture (you’d think it called a low aperture because the number is low, but apparently, it’s a wide aperture – physics is weird). Conversely, I’d use a narrow aperture like f/22 to capture a landscape.Here are two examples:forbidden forest potions candle coTaken with f/3.4 – note the candle in focus and blurred background.Queen charlotte soundTaken with f/22 – note the lack of blurred background or foreground. The entire image is in focus.

Aperture in low light

This is where the good news comes in – a wide aperture like f/3.5, which I use for most of my Instagram shots, lets in more light than a narrow aperture. Good news because you’ll likely be using that setting in a low light situation anyway.

Let’s talk about Shutter Speed/ Exposure time

The next aspect of the camera we’ll talk about is shutter speed. If you’re finding that your wide aperture just isn’t letting in enough light, or you don’t want to use something as wide as f/3.5, you can adjust your shutter speed to let in more light. It took me such a long time to figure out where my shutter speed adjustment was on my M3. I should have read the manual, but that would have been easy, and I like to do everything the difficult way.If you have an M3, the shutter speed adjustment is the dial that surrounds the shutter button (I just guessed the name for that, I’ll have you know – and it was right.) The placement of the shutter speed on the shutter button kind of really makes sense now that I think about it. It’s not just the placement of the shutter speed dial that makes sense either, the way that the shutter speed impacts the photo is very logical also – the longer the shutter, the more light that gets in. Therefore, in low light, you’d want a low speed. However, the slower the shutter speed, the more room for blurring because of hand movement. If you’re going to have a super slow shutter speed (slower than about 1/60 usually), you’ll need a tripod to avoid camera shake.On your camera, shutter speed will be displayed in seconds and fractions of seconds – the slowest shutter speed on my M3 is 30 seconds, the quickest is 1/4000th of a second (it also has bulb mode for super long exposure).

Now, ISO.

Play around with aperture and shutter speed before you adjust your ISO. I usually have my ISO set on auto, only taking it off auto if my camera can’t figure out what it’s doing, and then I’ll try not to go past 400, but I’ll go up to 640 at a push. Sure, I’ve taken photos on ISO 1000, even 2000 and my M3 has made them look as decent as my iPhone SE, but that’s not really what I want. The problem with high ISO is that it decreases the clarity of your photo, often making pictures look grainy.

There we go!

That’s everything I’ve picked up on my trawling of the internet for tips and tricks using a camera with manual shooting capabilities in low light. Next up we’ll talk about using phone cameras and point-and-shoots!Happy snapping!

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Top Tips For Low-Light Photography: General Tips and Tricks

Top Tips For Low-Light Photography_ General Tips and Tricks -- The Riverside Library

Are you low with the winter blues, or is that just the light?

Ah, winter, that time of year with dreary, blue-tinged low-light. Perfect if blue-tinged dim things are your favourite to photograph, even better if they’re your ~aesthetic~, but that’s not the case for all of us. If you’ve found yourself upping that brightness slider on your favourite editing app just a little too much or tinting your photos orange to beat those winter blues, I have a few tips and tricks. It’s not just about the editing, it’s about the photography.Just because it’s the dead of winter, doesn’t mean your photography time should decrease. If you’re constantly posting on Instagram to engage with your followers and grow your account, a reduced amount of photography time can be a real pain. Since the beginning of winter a few weeks ago, I’ve been trawling the internet for tips and tricks to beat that cold, dim winter light. Now, it’s time to share what I’ve learnt (I’ll do my best to be correct, but I might be wrong about a few things, forgive me, I’m no professional).

The Guide

I’ll be dividing this guide into four posts, the first (this one) is about general tips and tricks for taking photos in low-light the second post talks about taking photos with a DSLR, mirrorless or other cameras with manual shooting capabilities. The third post will talk about using a phone or point and shoot camera and finally, the last post will cover editing for cold light (I’ll link them all here once they’re published).

General Tips

I did a poll on Instagram this morning asking if you guys prefer long or short posts, and the answer was a resounding short! So, I’m going to keep this to my absolute top three tips, and hope I can keep it under 1000 words.A lot of the general tips and tricks I’ll be chatting to you about are probably things you’re already doing, they’re a natural way to combat dim lighting. I’m going to cover them anyhow just in case you haven’t tried them yet.

Shooting the Sun

As a general rule in photography, middle of the day, sun high in the sky, isn’t the best time to take photos, nor is the night. You want to make the most of natural light as possible, so try to figure out what time of day has the kindest lighting. For me, it’s between 2 and 3pm. An inconvenient time, I’ll have you know. If you’re unable to shoot at those times of day due to work or school, I’d recommend taking a bunch of photos when you can like weekends, or your day off to make sure you have enough photos to take for the week.If there is no possible time when the sun (although hidden by a thick layer of clouds) brightens up the day enough to call it daylight, it might be an idea to invest in some lighting if you’re super serious about photography. Investing in lighting is by no means my first suggestion, it’s what I’d recommend if you’ve exhausted every single other option. I personally have no experience using artificial light to shoot it, all I know is that it’s not the best idea to use the lights in your ceiling as your main source of brightness.

Using a window

The window is generally the best source of natural light inside of a house. Shoot there. Even if the window is in an inconvenient place, like nowhere near your bed and you want a flat lay on a sheet, take the sheet to the window, and arrange your set up there. The results will be worth the hassle.Often an issue with windows is that the light only comes in on the one side of the photograph (the window side), and the opposite side is darker, and overall the lighting looks uneven. I’ve seen a lot of people recommend reflectors to combat this, but I’ve never personally used one. If uneven lighting is a real issue for you, hop on over to Pinterest or Google and see what others are recommending.

Avoid Blue

This one will come up in the fourth and final post in this series, but I felt it worthwhile mentioning here. Wintry light can often give photos a deep blue tinge, or a cold feel. If you really want to edit that out in the editing phase, it’s a wise idea to steer clear of shooting blue objects. Not only with they exacerbate the cold tones, but they’ll also lose their colour when you reduce the blue in editing.Having said this specifically about blue, I do think it’s important to be mindful of the tones that you include in. The colours will greatly affect the way your photo turns out, so it’s important to carefully select the colours of the objects you’re including in your shot.

That’s all for today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with part II of this winter photography guide!

What are your favourite little tips and tricks for dealing with cold, dim winter light? Let me know in the comments below!

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