Photography has been a passion of mine for many years now and is growing in popularity and access thanks to the development of compact digital cameras available everywhere from your local petrol station or supermarket to specialised photography wholesalers.
One area of discontent for many a budding enthusiast is low light shots and outdoor night photography. All of us have experienced the frustration and vexation of being moved by the seduction beauty of darkness and trying to capture those moments on camera only to upload the images to our hard drives and find heavily pixellated or out of focus offerings that belong in our recycle bins.
Here’s a few hints and tips that I’ve learn through blood sweat and tears over the years.
1. Get an idea in your head of what you’d like to shot and where.
2. I love playing with light and shadow and especially celestial beings on water so if you want to capture a sunset or rising moon check which direction you need to shot in, you may have to change location and it’s also handy to check out the visibility periods e.g. I’m in county down Northern Ireland, tonight the sun sets at 20.49 and the moon rises at 20.09.
3. Normal safety precautions, flashlight, mobile, a seat is always good especially for prolonged exposures and arduous set ups.
4. Use a tripod – if your shutter speed is less that 1/60 you’re likely to encounter camera shake. Also if it’s windy you’ll need a pretty sturdy tripod again to prevent the wind either blowing over your camera or just catching it and shifting it in the gusts.
5. Remote shutter release is very handy if this is possible for your equipment as I find even holding down the button can cause the camera to move.
6. Try to get a tripod with a spirit level or bring one along as often you can’t see clearly what you’re shooting through the lens and can wind up with weird horizons and lines.
7. Don’t use a flash as flash modes are only really effective if your subject is up to 6feet away and they confuse the other settings on your camera especially if you’re shooting in automatic mode.
8. The higher the ISO (film speed) the more light reactive it is which allows you to cut down on exposure time or f-stops however I’ve noticed on my digital camera that low speed ISO’s e.g. 1200 or 3200 can leave you with very grainy shots as the higher the speed the smaller the pixelation (I think – that’s how it works on film anyway!)
9. Light and shade – light metering – remember if you focus your camera on the setting sun or moon the camera assumes this to be the average light of the whole picture therefore the darker areas that need more exposure will be very dark in your photo. You may have to mess around with settings to find a suitable balance depending of course on what you want to shot and what light contrast you desire.
10. Bracketing your photos is a good idea – find your optimal settings and then take a shot on either side, one slighter lighter and one darker as it’s hard to tell what works until you see the finished product.
11. If you can it may be easier to set your lens to manual focus as a lot of cameras have trouble picking up what to focus on in the dark.
12. Use mirror lock if possible as even the internal mechanics of cameras can cause vibrations.
13. Take a lot of pictures and try different settings until you learn what works.
14. If your camera has a histogram function it can help to show you what’s under or over exposed.
15. Enjoy and share!!!