Guide to Low Light Photography: Useful Gear and Tips, by John Freeman
For blur-free images at the longer shutter speeds necessary for creative night shooting, a tripod is essential to keep your camera steady. It’s worth spending that little bit extra for a decent model, as a good tripod can last a lifetime and prove its worth in more situations than night shoots. Velbon’s DX-888 is designed for digital cameras and features a versatile 3-way pan and tile head. Manfrotto’s Magfibre range is a similarly wise buy.
While by no means essential for night photography, a flash gun can be useful. A burst of flash during a time exposure can be used to light a person or fill in foreground detail. You can even use multiple flash techniques to light buildings. With the TTL flash systems in most DSLRs, exposure calculation is easy. There are many options, but the new Metz range looks good. The powerful 58 AF-1 offers dual flash heads for simultaneous bounce and fill-in, and dedication with Canon or Nikon systems.
Both wide and tele lenses have their uses in night photography. Wideangles let you get whole buildings in shot more easily, or go in close for more impact; while telephotos let you compress distance by, say, shooting down a street lit with Christmas lights. Try to go for a lens with a wide maximum aperture, to ensure a bright viewfinder image and enable shorter exposure times. They don’t come much wider than Canon’s new 50mm, with its f/1.2 max aperture – if you can spare £1150!
John’s Top Tips For Low-light shooting
1 If you’re serious about creating sharp images, it’s essential to invest in a good tripod and cable release.
2 Try to shoot at twilight rather than when the sky is completely black. This will ensure better exposures and more colourful images.
3 When composing an after-dark frame, try to shoot at a lower ISO and increase exposure rather than shoot at a higher ISO and a shorter exposure.
4 If you are shooting in wet conditions make sure that the camera is well protected. Something as simple as a plastic bag should do the job.
5 If you can, shoot RAW rather than JPEG. Due to low light levels, you will need to gather all the information from a scene that you can get.