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Low Light Technique


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Low Light Technique

30 Dec 2021 5:09PM   Views : 526 Unique : 332

There are many different approaches to photography, but I thought I would share how I approach low light shooting. Typical subjects for me might be stage shots or night events such as the Harry Potter pictures from yesterday's blog. So let's look at the Harry Potter situation. We had the woods in darkness, illuminated by spotlights of all sorts of colours, directions and brightness levels. There was little chance to see what camera settings were being made, apart from through the viewfinder or from the monitor screen, depending upon camera. The first choice is the camera. I would go for whatever we have that we are totally familiar with, but my preference is for a DSLR as sometimes the light is so low that EVFs can be a bit iffy. However, if the EVF camera is the familiar one, then that is the choice to make. So the choice was the Pentax K-3 II. Then the lens. The obvious first thought is a fast f/1.4 lens, but that isn't always necessary as it might have to be used at f/4.5-f/5.6 anyway to get any sort of depth of field. So the choice was the SMC Pentax-DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR, making up for the slow speed of the lens by using ISO 6400 or more. Shooting was in JPEG, white balance was AWB as the colour of the light was all over the place and metering was centre weighted. Aperture was left at a round f/4.5 or so and the shutter speed selected by the camera. It's wise to keep an eye on the shutter speed in case it drops too low, but SR Shake Reduction) or the equivalent is amazing.

Having defined the overall settings, nothing needed to be changed except for one shot of a holographic projection, where the ISO needed lifting to ISO 51200. This ended up noisy, but it was that or no image.

The other shots were mainly straightforward, the camera focusing impressively in the darkest of corners. Here the shot was on the eyes, but because the subject is basically spotlit an amount of exposure compensation was applied. This was usually -2EV bit for this image was a full -3.5EV.

This was assessed using judgement, with perhaps a quick check of the monitor image every now and then to make sure everything was OK. This worked for some tricky shots, including this one where it was pretty essential that the line of light should look right and everything else could fall in with that as it might.

More fully lit areas still benefit fro -1.7EV or so, such as this shot of the griffin:

The drama of the light is great of course, and sometimes a little mist was provided as well:

Finally, over-expose lights at our peril as we will lose the colour entirely, so to keep the colour of these tiny houses it was a question of exposure compensation, as much as it takes. Around -4EV for this one:

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