Low light photography using only available light


As a teacher I am always asked “how can I shoot such and such a subject in low light?”. Typically it is a parent photographing either a son or daughter playing indoor sports(these questions are far more numerous in the winter months when all the sports move inside) or throughout the school year when the kids have their programs in the school auditorium. I thought it would be good to just bullet point a few of the main points to consider when you find yourself constrained by a lack of light. For those of you I have already taught you will definitely remember “light is everything”

To gain as much light as possible and keep the shutter speed as fast as possible:

1. Set camera to aperture priority

2.  Set aperture to lowest number   (i.e. F/2.8).  If shooting a lens that
has a variable aperture (i.e. 3.5-5.6) zoom the lens back to the
widest focal length (i.e. 18mm), set aperture to lowest number (3.5).  As
you  zoom, the aperture will automatically adjust based on the focal length.

3. Shutter speed will adjust to the light entering the lens to deliver the fastest
shutter speed possible.
A.  If more light is needed consider getting an f/2.8
lens that does not vary as you zoom.
B.  There are also lenses that do not zoom that have even greater light
gathering capabilities (i.e. 50mm 1.4;  50mm 1.8;  85mm 1.4
or 85mm 1.8).
C. Raising the ISO is not always the answer to increase your shutter
speed.  As the ISO number increases so does the noise (grain) in the
image thus degrading the image.
D.  A full frame sensor however will enable you to raise your ISO very high
with very little noise resulting.

4. Depending on situation, consider changing the metering mode to read only
the light you will be photographing.  (e.g. Stage lighting is typically
concentrated on the middle of the stage where the speaker stands).
In this situation set the metering mode to “spot” to read only the light
falling on the subject.

5.  If shooting in situations where the light is in “pools”   (i.e. stadium lights)
consider switching to manual mode and setting both shutter speed and
aperture manually.  If possible, use a light meter to meter the light in several
places on the field to get an idea of the settings to be set in manual mode.


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