ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image. In film photography, once you select a film, you have no way to change its ISO until you have exhausted the roll. Digital cameras give you the luxury to change the ISO after each exposure, which is a huge plus.
Choosing high or low ISO depends entirely on what you are shooting. If you are using a tripod, high ISO is not necessary since you can compensate by bringing more light using a slower shutter speed.
However if you are shooting handheld and on the move, a high ISO can help. High ISO in low light conditions can be a great tool as it allows you to shoot using faster shutter speeds and avoid motion blur, granting you more control over your photos. However, there is one issue with high ISO, which is a high amount of image noise.
In our previous articles, we wrote about night photography and flash painting, explaining the application of low light photography techniques that combine slow shutter speed. You will notice that you are using more or less the same techniques and camera settings whenever you are shooting in low light conditions.
There may be some minor changes here and there, but by and large, the techniques will be the same.
In order to take better low light images, we will pay attention to two aspects. A technical aspect, where the focus is more on camera settings. The other is a practical one, where the focus is more on actual practice and the art of seeing.
Using these approaches, you will come out of this with important knowledge which will improve your overall low light photography.
Understanding the intricacies of low light photography is necessary for taking your low light photos to the next level.
Here we will tackle things such as the importance of manual focus, fast and slow shutter speed, aperture, low and high ISO, and other key camera settings and small technicalities.
Essential Camera Settings and Tips for Low Light Photography
Your camera’s settings are your best friend when it comes to low light photography. Understanding low-light environments, slow shutter, avoiding blurry images, creating motion blur, and zoning in on exterior light sources will help you become better at shooting low light photography. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Shoot with a Fast Wide Angle Lens
If you intend to shoot cityscapes, fireworks, light trails, night street photography, and any other type of low light photography pursuits, then you will need a wide angle lens. Wide angle lenses are very versatile in the sense that they are perfect for a wide variety of shooting needs and not just low light photography. They capture a wider area of the scene which is what you want when photographing the above.
Another advantage of wide angle lenses is that they have a faster aperture. A faster aperture has quite a few advantages. It gives you that beautiful background blur during daylight and can be very beneficial for low-light shooting. A fast lens means you don’t have to jack up the ISO number in order to capture more light. Low ISO makes for more sharp photos and reduces grain, thus increasing image quality.
A fast lens lets in more light, thus allowing you to use a faster shutter speed creating a more stable and less blurry image.
2. Use a Tripod
Chances are, unless you have a lens with a very wide aperture, and as soon as you block out natural lighting, then you’ll experience a camera shake where the use of a tripod can be required. Not only will you need a tripod to hold the camera steady but you’ll also need whatever you’re shooting to stay still in order to take a sharp photograph.
The use of a tripod in low light settings can be a very important tool, but that depends on the photo you are attempting to capture. A tripod can help in image stabilization, letting as much light as possible in low light situations.
For example, a tripod allows you to expose using a very slow shutter speed and get very unique images. Such as that of stars or any moving subject in low light.