Beginner Photography Tutorial: Take Sharp Photos in Low Light
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Taking sharp photos in low light is easy enough to do, provided you recognize the possible issues and know what you can do about them.
A major issue with shooting in low light for beginner photography could be that the first basic beginner photography tutorial may not have even ventured into the area of lower light, perhaps assuming new DSLR and mirrorless shooters are going to be taking basic snapshots.
The whole reason so many people move into these camera upgrades from smartphones or point and shoot cameras is to move beyond basic snapshots, right? So, many beginner photographers with new entry level cameras are going to reach out for more and different picture taking opportunities.
Take Sharp Photos In Good Light
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Many of the same techniques for sharp photos can be used in bright light or in marginal and low light. Here are a few thoughts for how to take sharp photos under varied conditions, including how to get really sharp photos in low light.
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’m not really being facetious. A proper stance and good technique for hand held picture taking is an important habit to learn for all photography. If you’re transitioning from smartphones or point and shoot cameras, the proper way to hold your new DSLR or mirrorless may not be readily apparent.
The biggest difference is that with the phones we all use, in order to frame our shots we’re using the viewscreen and holding the camera away from our face. Using an interchangeable lens camera, we have the option to view through the eye level viewfinder, which could be optical or electronic.
Looking through an eye level finder actually gives us better stability than holding the camera out at arm’s length while looking at the rear viewscreen. We can keep our elbows tucked in towards our body which helps us keep the camera still. Standing with our feet about shoulder width apart also aids our personal stability.
All of this will go a long way toward eliminating unsharp pics because of inadvertently moving the camera as we release the shutter. In lower light, shutter speeds can drop down to a time that really shows any motion on our part. So, knowing how to take sharp photos in decent light gives us some useful techniques for sharp photos in lower light.
Camera Mounts and Tripods
One of the most recommended techniques for taking sharp photos in low light is putting your camera on a tripod. I really like tripods and there are many different types from large tripods to lightweight travel tripods. Another item I like using are tripod alternatives such as a camera mount.
One of the best new products I found recently is the OctoPad camera mount. OctoPad is a unique style camera mount to use for sharp photos in low light. It isn’t a tripod, not a clamp, nor even a suction cup. OctoPad is a weighted semi rigid pad with a non slip bottom and a ball head on top. You can place it on any surface up to a 45 degree angle.
Since it’s super portable, you can easily bring it with you for taking sharp photos in low light in almost any type of area, indoors or outdoors.
Turn On the Technology
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It’s a great time to get started in serious digital photography. So many cameras from entry level all the way to full fledged professional models have features unheard of just a few years ago. One of the most useful digital camera features for taking sharp photos in low light is the anti-shake technology or imagine stabilization.
There are several different labels for this feature from the various camera and lens brands. Some call it IS for image stabilizer, others call it VR for vibration reduction, SR for shake reduction, OSS for optical steady shot, or any number of other branded labels. It can be in the camera body, the lens, or both.
We don’t need to perfectly understand the exact process behind the feature, just that it lets us take sharper pictures in low light and at slower shutter speeds. Combined with a good stance for hand holding, this feature is one of the best things to use for beginners and experienced photographers alike. Be sure to turn it off if using a tripod or OctoPad.
Careful With the Focus
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Camera or subject motion is one type of issue that causes a lot of unsharp photos, out of focus or otherwise poorly focused shots are another. Low light does more photographically than give slower shutter speeds, it also makes it harder to accurately focus.
An excellent technique to focus accurately for sharp photos in low light is to change your focus sensor selection to one spot and either use back button focus or the focus and recompose technique.
Another issue with AF systems in lower light is that they may not be either too speedy or accurate so there are some techniques for this, too. If there is an edge that you can use for focus sensor placement, this helps out a lot. In other words, instead of trying to focus on someone’s skin like their cheek, focus on the lip crease or nose edge, or even better, the eye.
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The most repeated piece of advice I am always giving is to practice all of these techniques and methods. The saying “film is cheap” has been used forever and it continues to be true now, especially with digital imaging memory.
Keep practicing these techniques and you’ll get better with each photo outing. It can be surprisingly simple to take sharp photos in low light by being still, using a camera mount, turning on stabilization technology when appropriate, and making sure you have good focus.