Lighting is what photography is all about. After all, half the word “photography” refers to light! Low light, though, can be a problem, a challenge and an amazing opportunity, all in one…
Low light can be said to be one of the greatest enemies of photographers. Especially amateur photographers. These days, one of the biggest selling points for cameras is their ability to perform well in low light conditions. But what happens when you are faced with a situation where light is scarce and darkness persists? You can choose to use a flashgun, which may spoil the ambience and photos or go home and cry over it. But alas, there is another option; taking advantage of the low light to come up with different looking images that can easily mesmerize viewers.
In proper lighting, cameras will freeze the action unless set to photograph in longer exposure times. However, in low light conditions, cameras tend to capture blurry images unless artificial light is introduced or the settings adjusted to somehow capture sharp images. Instead of trying to achieve sharp images, especially at night, you can use the lighting conditions to capture movement. One of the best ways of doing this is by using a tripod.
The settings are simple… slow shutter speed, low light and a mid-range aperture (f/5.6 or f/8) will help you capture light streaks of traffic or anything that moves and catches the ambient light. What matters from now on is location as this will determine the beauty of your images. Try such a photo at a railway station or a bus station and the resulting cloud of ghostly figures could be a real delight.
Paint with light
Light painting is one of the fun tricks you can do with your camera in low light conditions. In light painting, the shutter is ideally set to “B” (long time open) and the ‘painter’ stands in front of the camera with colored LED (or any other) lights. After the shutter is opened, the painter waves the lights in any desired motion to create streaks or objects. The camera will record these light movements to create the intended shapes since there is no other light around to form an image.
Create light trails
Light trails are mesmerizing images of ‘residual’ light ‘left behind’ by moving objects. Capturing light trails will also involve long exposures. By setting your camera at a location where vehicles are passing in a dark night and setting the exposure time to something like 2 seconds or more, you will capture trails of light in the long run. The more the exposure timing the better your image will look, though you need to be wary of the ambient light. Too much of ambient light will spoil your image by making the trails too faded and over exposing your image.
Noise is good sometimes
Noisy images are often considered low quality and photographers spend a lot of time learning how to avoid noisy images, especially in low light. In low light, we depend more on ISO and shutter speed to get things right but often the resulting images are grainy. These ‘grains’ (or artefacts as they are known digitally) can actually be used to create dramatic pictures depicting dreams, fear, paranormal activities etc. you can even create a picture story of such photos with people in it. Adding a little bit of shake and some foreground light can make your photos appear like ghostly silhouettes.
Sum up !
There is a lot possible with low light. You can get more from low light by converting all those imperfections to works of art. By taking advantage of the fact that there will be many areas of the images that may be partly visible, you can come up with photos of a different perspective. Photography should not just be about the availability of light but you can change that ‘myth’ to make it about the availability of darkness! Don’t let light rule your photography. You should rule the light!