Low light photography is one of the more challenging and rewarding types of photography you can do. As the name suggests, low light photography is photos taken from dusk to dawn. Some common things that are photographed in low light are city skylines, fireworks, starry nights and a city’s night life.
One thing that stands out above all else in low light photography is light. If you look at a picture of the city at night, your eyes gravitate towards the lights coming out of the buildings. On the other hand, if you were looking at a city during the day, your eyes would gravitate more towards the buildings themselves.
The challenge of low light photography is getting enough light to create a picture in the first place. For much of the history of photography, this limited the practicality of low light photography.
While there were serious low light photographers as early as 1932, only recently has low light photography become mainstream.
Luckily, we live in the good days of digital cameras. Digital cameras make low light photography accessible to photographers both professional and amateur. In fact many digital cameras have features that help you do this.
A common misconception is that in order to photograph in low light, you need to do flash photography. There are certain cases when flash photography is the way to go. For example, if you are at a rave and want to take a photo of your friends dancing, then using the flash on your camera makes sense. This is the only way you will actually see them in the picture.
If you are doing photography as an art, however, then using the camera’s flash is not necessarily the best idea. Most iconic low light pictures were taken without using the flash in the camera. They were taken by photographers who played around with settings like the camera’s ISO, shutter speed and white light.
When you are doing low light photography, you need to get exposure for as long as possible. Obviously, this means that you need to have a low shutter speed. It is not uncommon for shutter speeds of 2-60 seconds to be used. Some low light photographers use even longer shutter speeds.
This means that one thing that you absolutely need is a tripod. Your photographs will be hopelessly blurred if you do not have one. It is crucial to keep your camera steady when you are doing low light photography. This is why having a tripod is so important.
It also means that in order to compensate for the slower shutter speeds, you will need to decrease the aperture substantially. When your aperture is smaller, exposure times and the overall depth of your photos will increase.
Another tool that can help you keep the cameras street is a remote shuttle release. Some cameras also have a timer that fulfills the same function. If you use one of those, the camera will be still right from the beginning. I stress again that it is essential that you keep the camera still at all times when doing low light photography.
You should also set your camera’s ISO to as high as it will go. The higher your camera’s ISO is, the more sensitive to light it will be. Obviously, in low light photography your camera’s light sensitivity needs to be as high as it can be.
That said, having a high ISO will make your photographs grainier. While the extra graininess can be used for creative effect, most photographers prefer not to produce grainy photographs. You should start by setting your ISO as high as it will go and then experiment with lower ISO settings.
One of the neat things about low light photography is that you can capture moving trails of light. Motor vehicles and circus rides will have and trails of light that you can capture. They are captured when you set a slow shutter speed.
Low light photography is a type of photography that new photographers should try and master. While it is an advanced type of photography, it is very much possible for an amateur to become good at it relatively quickly.
The ultimate key of low light photography is to experiment. You should not only do experiments with photographing different things in low light settings, but also experiment with different camera settings.
In fact, experimenting with low light photography is a great way familiar with your digital camera and its various settings. An example of this is the white balance. The white balance in a digital camera is reflected in the intensity of each color in the picture. When you are mastering low light photography, you will find yourself playing around with the white balance so that the colors in your low light photographs balance correctly.
Knowing how to set the white balance is also useful when doing daytime photography.
In short, then, becoming good at low light photography is a great way to become better at daytime photography.