Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

9 Essential Tips to Conquer Available Light Photography

Natural light is the gift to photographers that we must never take for granted. When I am asked for one piece of advice I would give it is always find the light and then look for a subject. When I am travelling with my camera, as I am now, currently I am in Cambodia, I always move towards the light, put me in a market, a temple, a bar, in the jungle, wherever it doesn’t matter the thing I look for is the light. My great friend David Constantine always gets up at 5.30 when he is travelling just to be out when the light first arrives, you may remember his remarkable portraits taken from his wheel chair. If he can get his act together at first light so should we all when photography is out aim.

Here Jason Little writing on Lighstalking makes some very valid points about using natural light.

In some instances, we set the challenges for ourselves: to complete a 365 project, to refine our panning technique, to shoot portraits of strangers. Generally speaking, accomplishing these goals simply requires healthy doses of discipline, patience, and courage. Other times, challenges arise as a matter of circumstance; there is no shortage of things that could possibly go wrong or get in the way of getting the perfect shot. One of the obstacles that so often rears its ugly head is that of having to shoot in low light.

Here are the first of Jason’s tips

Available light photography (also referred to as low light photography) really is exactly what it sounds like: taking photographs using nothing but whatever light source is present at the moment (which is why there are some who will argue that shooting in the midday sun also constitutes available light photography; but for the sake of this discussion, I am on the side of those who define available light as low light).
You are bound to find yourself in a situation where the use of flash is prohibited or when you are out and about with just your camera, no extraneous gear; you cannot, in good conscience, pass up a shot due to any manner of external limitation. In fact, I am willing to bet that you will grow to appreciate the allure of available light photography, so long as you stick with it and learn some techniques to help you overcome the trepidation associated with using your camera in less than ideal environments. Thus, I present to those who may be feeling a bit apprehensive, a series of practical tips that you can hopefully call upon the next time a low light photography opportunity presents itself.
Use a fast lens. A fast lens is one with a larger aperture such as f/1.4; it is important to allow as much light as possible to hit the camera’s sensor and large apertures help accomplish this.
Use a prime lens. Prime lenses are typically faster than zoom lenses and tend to exhibit less flare, which is a significant consideration when shooting into the light.
Boost your ISO. Most DSLRs produce great results at ISO 3200 and many can easily do the same at ISO 6400 and higher. Don’t be afraid of a little noise; you can either deal with it in post or…just forget about it. A truly great shot will command attention and no one will even care about the amount of noise present, if they even notice it at all.

Read the rest of his tips here

Laos

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