In the eventuality that you’re thinking of shooting some pictures at night or in low light conditions this winter, then there are some basic settings you must modify first. To be more precise, in order to make sure you capture all the elements in your composition, you need to use a tripod and a cable release, set the ISO to 800 or higher if you camera allows it and maintain the exposure under 20 seconds. It is important to note that even though all of the above are good starting points, you will have to play with the other settings of the camera based on the location-specific lighting conditions. Let’s elaborate.
- Equip a fast lens
Few amateur photographers know that each ‘fstop’ can provide twice the amount of light as the previous ones, thus helping you obtain a longer exposure. Even when you manage to get the right ISO, you might still experience some issues associated with image sharpness. Luckily, you can address this problem by equipping a sharper aperture of either f8 or f11. On a side note, if you’re using a tripod as recommended then skip using image stabilization as it could reduce image sharpness even further.
- Histograms are your best friends
It is a good idea to check the histograms after each exposure to determine if the light or shadows have been lost in the process. In addition, by monitoring the histograms you will also be able to determine whether you’re underexposing and if you will need multiple exposures to get the perfect shot.
- Consider using HDR techniques
A further noteworthy piece of information you will learn by checking the histograms is whether or not you need bracket exposure. As you will find out on your own, the data in the lower half of the histogram tends to be very ‘noisy’ and gets louder as you get closer to the black point. To address this problem you will have to learn how to use bracket exposure correctly and more often.
- Know when to use long exposure noise reduction
The principle behind the long exposure noise reduction is fairly simple: the camera will make an additional exposure of the composition with a similar length and with the shutters closed in order to identify the fixed sensor noise and eliminate it from the first exposure. Despite the fact that this is quite useful – particularly when the sensor noise is increasingly high – the long exposure noise reduction will not always work for your night shots. For instance, if you’re using a low ISO and prefer a shorter exposure, you should skip it altogether as the noise is barely noticeable.
- When and why use an artificial light source?
Since you will be shooting in low light conditions, you will need at least a small flashlight to check out the camera settings and your equipment. The flashlight can also come in handy when trying to find the infinity focus as you can use it to illuminate the subject in your composition. Depending on what you have in mind, you could even blend multiple exposures with artificial light to gain more control over the lighting in the composition.