Tips for low light photography

If you are frustrated by the quality of the pictures you take with your new dSLR in low light conditions, here is a video tutorial that will help you shoot better photos.

There are three main settings that affect your exposure:
  • shutter speed - it controls how long light reaches your camera's sensor and usually you should not use longer speed than [1/your focal length*crop factor]. If you choose a slower shutter speed, your image may get blurry as the shutter speed helps freezing action.
  • aperture - it controls the amount of light coming in through your lens. A fast lens is 1.4 or 2.8.
  • ISO - it compensates for light deficiency. The higher the number, the brighter your image will be but at a cost of extra noise on your photograph. Values may be 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600...
So basically you need to choose the right equipment for low light photography in the first instance: a camera that can increase ISO without too much noise and a lens with wide aperture like 1.4 or 2.8.
Set your camera to Av (aperture priority) mode, manual ISO. Try to opt for wider aperture than to higher ISO. Let your camera adjust between the shots. It works well in constant lighting situations while where light varies, you can try using Manual mode and manual ISO. In this case you need to adjust your aperture and shutter speed manually. Set your White Balance to manual as well.
Not all lenses can produce a sharp image being widest open, so try to use one or two stops further.

How to increase contrast with a flash

Bryan Peterson gives his professional advice on how to shoot flowers and make them pop up avoiding sometimes clumsy background. All you need is an external speedlight that can help you make the background almost black. Position your flash outside of the camera, you can use a Pocket Wizard unit or a simple cable to fire the flash. He had his settings as f22, and with his flash he had to dial 1/8 power because of the short distance to the flower. Bryan wants to underexpose the ambient light in background. So he makes the shutter speed faster than in the first image shot without a flash. But he leaves the aperture the same f22. One of mistakes that people do is shooting in Aperture priority mode with a flash which means they add the speedlight light to the ambient light. You need to switch to Manual mode and set a faster shutter speed if you want to make your background darker.