The Low Light Photography Field Guide: The essential guide to getting perfect images in challenging light (The Field Guide Series)

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9780240820804: The Low Light Photography Field Guide: The essential guide to getting perfect images in challenging light (The Field Guide Series)

In bright light, it is easier to take a beautiful photograph with your DSLR.  When the sun starts to go down or you are shooting indoors, a whole new skill set is needed.  This new addition to the successful Field Guide Series will help you shoot what potentially could be the most lovely image without the help of natural light.  No more harsh flash photographs with dreary backgrounds and no more blurry night shots that were exposed too long. Opening with a section on the qualities of different kinds of low light, the book then deals with ways of overcoming gloomy situations, whether you are shooting hand-held or on a tripod.  Post-production fixes are also covered, allowing you to turn difficult shots into real works of art.

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Review:

Amazon Exclusive: An Excerpt from Low Light Photography Field Guide

Handheld or Locked Down

Low light photography is one area in which process dominates. By this I mean that all the various limits and difficulties that we looked at in the first chapter need to be thought about before you start shooting. In practical terms, low light shooting is about pushing technical and mechanical limits as far as you can, and this in turn means that there are two competing ways of approaching it. In one the idea is to do everything necessary to retain the freedom of using a camera in much the same way as you would under normal light. The alternative is to abandon freedom in favor of a full choice of technical settings--sharp, clean images without noise, and at any aperture setting, and with no limit to the exposure time (except, of course, for short exposures).

It is not easy to switch from one to the other mid-shoot, so it is normal to decide at the start which route you are going to take for any one session. There are good arguments for both handheld and for using a tripod, and which to choose depends on the subject, your preferred style, the results you are looking for and the quality you absolutely need. The last factor is too often ignored, as we'll come to in a moment, and can sometimes make the others redundant.

The key factor for most photographers is the optimum shutter speed for subject movement. If the subject is active, for instance people in motion, a tripod is no help in freezing the movement. Some kinds of movement may well be acceptable, or even desirable, such as the streaked trails of vehicle lights on a highway, but if you need sharp capture, the threshold shutter speed for this determines everything. This in turn is affected by the relative movement in the image frame (see pages 110–113), so a walking figure naturally calls for a faster shutter speed if it fills the frame than if it takes up just a small part of the picture. But basically, the rule is, if you are photographing people, then shoot handheld.

The obvious advantages are freedom and mobility, and the chance to shoot unobserved, without drawing attention to the camera as is inevitable with a tripod. You can strip down the amount of equipment drastically; one camera, one or two lenses, maybe a flash unit if the camera does not have one built in, and very little else. Gone are the days of two camera bodies, each for a different film (such as high-speed color, with high-speed black and white to be pushed to the maximum if necessary). Digitally, everything can be dialed up from the menu.

The disadvantages are in camera handling and image quality. As handheld shooting in these conditions almost never enjoys the luxury of fast shutter speeds, holding the camera (and yourself) still is always an issue, and may often--as we'll see a few pages further on--call for over-shooting to lessen the risk of frames lost to camera shake. A fast lens, with a maximum aperture wider then ƒ/2, is a distinct advantage, though costly. Image quality centers on noise, because the key strategy is setting the appropriate ISO. High sensitivity means high noise levels, and while there are ways of dealing with this it reduces quality. This completely depends on how the pictures are going to be used, in particular the size. It is very important to become familiar with just how bad different noise levels look when reproduced at particular scales. The positive side of this is that if you are going to use the picture small, the noise may be invisible, thus giving handheld almost no disadvantages at all.

Subject motion sets limits:
Handheld shooting reaches its practical limit when the movement of subjects is too fast even for a combination of wide-open aperture and high ISO setting.

Size matters: While noise is evident at 100% magnification, at this size of reproduction, it becomes unnoticeable.

Detail:
Remember to use the 100% magnification on your computer to check pixel-level detail.

Low light reportage: Shooting handheld lets you follow classic reportage methods like photographing unnoticed.

Handheld movement:
Handheld shooting allows for a number of loose, ad hoc effects, such as a slow speed while walking, as in this image, taken at 1/3 sec.

Depth of detail: Images that rely heavily on fine resolution call for maximum image quality. A tripod is the natural choice.

Handheld vs. Locked Down Checklist

Handheld
  • Free, quick, and mobile
  • Unobtrusive, allows reportage-style shooting
  • Lightweight, needs little equipment
  • First choice for subjects in motion
  • Camera shake always an issue
  • Fast lenses are a priority
  • Needs high ISO settings, resulting in noise
  • Depth of field always shallow because wide apertures used
  • Locked down
  • Static, takes time to change viewpoint
  • Conspicuous, may attract unwanted attention
  • Tripod can be an inconvenient burden
  • First choice for static subjects
  • If tripod used well, no risk of camera shake
  • Any lens can be used, even very long slow telephotos
  • Can use lowest ISO setting. Good depth of field practical by stopping down
  • About the Author:

    Michael Freeman is a renowned international photographer and writer who specializes in travel, architecture, and Asian art. He is particularly well known for his expertise in special effects. He has been a leading photographer for the Smithsonian magazine for many years, and has worked for Time-Life Books and Reader's Digest. Michael is the author of more than 40 photographic books, including the hugely successful Complete Guide to Digital Photography and The Photographer's Eye. For his photographic educational work he was awarded the Prix Louis Philippe Clerc by the French Ministry of Culture. He is also responsible for the distance-learning courses on photography at the UK's Open College of the Arts.

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    Descrizione libro Taylor Francis Ltd, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In bright light, it is easier to take a beautiful photograph with your DSLR. When the sun starts to go down or you are shooting indoors, a whole new skill set is needed. This new addition to the successful Field Guide Series will help you shoot what potentially could be the most lovely image without the help of natural light. No more harsh flash photographs with dreary backgrounds and no more blurry night shots that were exposed too long. Opening with a section on the qualities of different kinds of low light, the book then deals with ways of overcoming gloomy situations, whether you are shooting hand-held or on a tripod. Post-production fixes are also covered, allowing you to turn difficult shots into real works of art. Codice libro della libreria AAC9780240820804

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    Descrizione libro Taylor Francis Ltd, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In bright light, it is easier to take a beautiful photograph with your DSLR. When the sun starts to go down or you are shooting indoors, a whole new skill set is needed. This new addition to the successful Field Guide Series will help you shoot what potentially could be the most lovely image without the help of natural light. No more harsh flash photographs with dreary backgrounds and no more blurry night shots that were exposed too long. Opening with a section on the qualities of different kinds of low light, the book then deals with ways of overcoming gloomy situations, whether you are shooting hand-held or on a tripod. Post-production fixes are also covered, allowing you to turn difficult shots into real works of art. Codice libro della libreria AAC9780240820804

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    Descrizione libro Taylor Francis Ltd, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In bright light, it is easier to take a beautiful photograph with your DSLR. When the sun starts to go down or you are shooting indoors, a whole new skill set is needed. This new addition to the successful Field Guide Series will help you shoot what potentially could be the most lovely image without the help of natural light. No more harsh flash photographs with dreary backgrounds and no more blurry night shots that were exposed too long. Opening with a section on the qualities of different kinds of low light, the book then deals with ways of overcoming gloomy situations, whether you are shooting hand-held or on a tripod. Post-production fixes are also covered, allowing you to turn difficult shots into real works of art. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780240820804

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