Tips for Photographing in Low Light

Taking photos in low light takes some practise to perfect, we have put together a great guide to help you master the art of low light photograph. Low light cameras and equipmentfixing underexposed photos and even a infographic on low light photography tips to bring it all together. We hope you enjoy.

Drums, shot at 1/6 of a second using f/2.8, ISO 1600
Drums, shot at 1/6 of a second using f/2.8, ISO 1600

Sometimes we want to take photographs under low lighting conditions without using a flash. It could be that we don’t want to cause a distraction during a ceremony or formal event. Perhaps flash isn’t allowed, such as during many concerts or performances. Or maybe we just like the ambiance that the use of the available light creates. Whatever the reason, it is reassuring to know that we can take quality photographs, even in dim lighting, without the use of a flash.

One – Crank up the ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the camera’s sensor is to the light that is reaching it. My Canon 7D’s highest ISO is 6400 (I haven’t purchased the expansion), and I’ve used that setting to photograph bands at night clubs with some pretty good results. The additional noise that is generated by using a high ISO can be filtered out somewhat in post-processing. Sometimes the extra grain adds a little something special to the shot. Shooting in RAW format allows for the most flexibility in post-processing.

Two – Use a larger aperture. The larger the aperture, the more light is entering the lens. Shooting at f/5.6 lets in more light than shooting at f/18 (remember, the lower the number, the larger the aperture).

Three – Slow down the shutter speed. More light is captured the longer the shutter remains open. Keep in mind that a good “rule of thumb” for clear hand-held shots is no slower than 1/60th of a second. Use a tripod if you’re shooting at anything slower than that, though I have had success at slower hand-held shots using lenses with image stabilization.

Four – If you do have to use a flash, try to avoid the on-camera pop-up. It tends to flatten the appearance of the image because the light is hitting the subject directly. Invest in an off-camera flash, angle light so that it is not directly in front of the subject, and use reflective surfaces and diffusers to soften the light. Strategically placed constant light (such as tungsten lamps using soft white bulbs) work excellently for providing additional ambient light without sacrificing the atmosphere of the setting.

Five – Use your camera’s exposure compensation capabilities. The scale on many of today’s DSLR’s allow from -3 to +3 stops in 1/3 stop increments (my 7D is +/-5). Dial the exposure compensation to the positive side to purposefully “overexpose” the photograph.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Five Tips for Photographing Teenagers

This is our last in our three part series on photographing your children as they grow up. Today we bring you some tips on photographing teens. You might want to look back at our tips on photographing babies and taking photos of children. We hope you enjoy.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Teenagers can be very, very particular about their appearance in a photograph. It has to be “cool”, it has to show them at their best, and the photo needs to capture their own unique personality and style. As such, working with teenage subjects can be quite a challenge. Photographing a teenager in a more formal setting, such as prom or yearbook pictures, can be somewhat easier than working with younger subjects, as the teen is able to comprehend your instructions and can demonstrate more patience for the photographic process. Action shots, such as sporting events, are also important to fully capture this time in the teen’s life. Always remember to have fun and encourage dialogue to fully understand the goals of the photo shoot. The next time you have the opportunity, try out these tips for photographing a teenager.

One – Set the goals and expectations up front. Have a detailed conversation with the teen about the expected outcome of the photo shoot. What kinds of poses do they want? Will there be multiple outfits? Will the shots be just for fun, or are they going to be used as their class picture or in their yearbook? Settle on how long the photo shoot will last as well, to control “scope creep”. Most importantly, discuss the details with the teenager as their equal.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Two – Compose multiple portraiture shots. Get in close for a head or head and shoulders shot by using the long end of a telephoto lens (such as a 70-200mm) or a long prime lens (such as a 200mm f/2.0), and use a shallow depth of field (f/5.6 or lower). Use a tripod and remote shutter release to ensure tack-sharp photos. For full body poses, a 18-55mm lens is a great, flexible lens. Photograph at f/11 to ensure the entire subject is in focus. For indoor portrait shots in continuous light, shoot at ISO 400 at f/11. For outdoor portrait shots shoot in aperture priority, also using ISO 400.

Three – Use a fast lens for sports photography. Choose a 70-200mm f/2.8 or a 300mm f/2.8 (unfortunately this is out of reach of pretty much everyone  $4700! so using a non prime 300mm lens is still an option – you might just need to push up your ISO, or go where there is more light – here is a list of 300mm lenses less than $500), and set the camera to shoot in continuous or “burst” mode. A fast lens will allow you to use a faster shutter speed even in lower light levels. This will ensure that the subject in the photograph is sharp even if captured in motion, and is a good choice whether you’re shooting an indoor event or an outdoor event. Shooting in burst mode will capture a succession of motion shots, and also increases the chances of capturing a tack-sharp, correctly composed and correctly exposed shot.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

Four – Plan ahead for the special events. Talk with the teenager about their plans for homecoming, prom, championship or rivalry games, and the like. Remember to bring the camera with you for their test to get their driver’s license. They’ll suffer through the “embarrassment” of first-date pictures if they know about them ahead of time. Also, consider documenting a “day in the life” – follow the teen around for a day taking photographs, so they can look back upon this time in their life and recall how they used to spend their free time.

Five – You can handle multiple teenagers! Many times teens would like to create a group photographic project with their friends. Be open and friendly, and solicit suggestions and ideas. Set expectations up front to encourage the process to keep moving forward. Anticipate several hours for multiple poses, locations, and outfits. Pay equal attention to each individual – in group shots, photograph multiple poses and rearrange the subjects so that they each have a turn being in the center or being the “featured” subject. Be sure to take individual shots of each teenager. Consider breaking up larger groups into multiple smaller groups for variation. Take candid shots of the teens interacting with one another to capture more natural poses.

Five Tips for Photographing Children

We are happy to share the second in Snapblog series on photographing children at different stages of their lives. Last week we shared some tips on photographing infants, today we has some tips on taking photos of children and on Tuesday we will bring you more tips on photographing teenagers.

Photo credit: Mike Baird on Flickr Creative Commons

Capturing the joy, abandon, and innocence of childhood in a photograph can be challenging. Our desire for the preservation of the memory of this fleeting time in our children’s lives is far removed from the dreaded elementary school or department store photographs we were subjected to as youngsters. Yet the idea of chasing them around, trying to get them to stand still, and trying to get them to cooperate with a photo session may be too tiring to contemplate. Here are a handful of tips to help you capture great photographs of children, from toddlers to pre-teens.

One – Let your photo shoot be secondary to what the kids are doing. Put a long lens on your camera (for instance a 55-300mm telephoto) and take candid shots of the children from afar, as they play or interact with their environment. It is far more desirable to photograph them moving naturally, rather than sitting stiffly with a grimace on their face. Make the most of bright sunlight and a fast shutter speed to “stop” their action in mid-motion.

Photo credit: Angie Garrett on Flickr Creative Commons

Two – Shoot in continuous, or “burst” mode. When shooting children, or any action shot, set the camera to “High Speed Continuous” mode, so that pressing and holding down the shutter will capture a series of shots until the shutter button is released. This method of shooting has two benefits: first, it ensures that at least some shots will be in-focus, appropriately exposed, and well composed. There is a better chance of getting “the” shot if there are a lot of shots. Second, it creates a series of shots that can be arranged in a group to show the child in action.

Three – Become as tall (or as short) as they are. Photograph the child from the child’s perspective, instead of from high above them. Even shoot from below the child looking upward – when you’re photographing kids you can’t be afraid to get down on your hands and knees! It’s also fun to bring the child up to your height – have them sit or stand on a picnic table or rock, or low tree branch. Just keep their safety in mind!

Photo credit: Lisa M Photography on Flickr Creative Commons

Four – Use a shallow depth of field. Shoot at f/5.6 to begin with, and if you are shooting even closer to get fine detail – perhaps the face fills the entire frame, or you’re capturing specific features – use an even shallower depth of field. A 50mm f/1.4 lens creates beautiful bokeh (background blur) and softens the light quality for a lovely effect.

Five – Encourage participation. Ask the child what they would like to have photographed. Perhaps the child has a favorite activity that they’d like a picture of them doing. Maybe he or she has a favorite outfit or hat, baseball glove or stuffed animal. Don’t forget that just as the photographs are for the child’s parents, they’re for the child as well. Taking the child’s priorities into consideration when photographing them will create within the child a whole new level of enthusiasm for your efforts.

Five Tips for Photographing Infants

Some of the most precious moments that a photographer can capture are the first hours, days, and months of a newborn infant’s life. Photographing infants can sometimes be a challenge, what with having to work around a newborn’s sleeping and eating schedule, plus trying to pose an infant and adapt to varying degrees of light. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that these most precious photographs are captured successfully.

Photo credit: Tiffany Joyce

This is the first in Snapblog series on photographing children at different stages of their lives. On Monday we will bring you an article on photographing children, and then on Tuesday photographing teenagers.

Some of the most precious moments that a photographer can capture are the first hours, days, and months of a newborn infant’s life. Photographing infants can sometimes be a challenge, with having to work around a newborn’s sleeping and eating schedule, plus trying to get a pose right and adapt to varying degrees of light. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that these most precious photographs are captured successfully.

One – Understand the parents’ immunization preferences, and your own. This tip may have little to do with the actual photographic process, but it is a good idea to have a discussion with the parents regarding immunization. To some parents it is very important for the people around their infant to be immunized against flu, pertussis, mumps, chicken pox, and the like. Often times you will be photographing the infant in their home for the exact reason that the parents don’t want to expose the baby to potential illness present in public spaces. Be sure you understand one another’s expectations ahead of time.

Photo credit: Meagan Jensen on Flickr Creative Commons

Two – Take advantage of naptime. When young babies are awake, they’re generally awake for a reason. They’re either hungry or in need of a diaper change, and often express their displeasure with grumpy faces. While these expressions can provide fun opportunities for pictures, softer and more composed shots are usually desired. Try photographing the baby when it’s asleep, or during those golden moments of first awakening. Be careful when arranging sleeping babies, and use pillows (or “boppies”) to gently arrange the baby into photogenic poses. Make sure the baby’s neck and head are supported at all times. Ensure the environment is warm and draft-free if you are photographing the baby without blankets or clothing. Be patient, as the baby’s arrangement in the photograph is completely subject to the baby’s whims, and NOT the photographer’s desires.

Three – Bring three lenses. A telephoto lens (such as a 70-200mm zoom) will allow you to take shots from a long distance away (use a tripod!) and achieve great depth of field while minimizing the noise and disturbance to the baby. A 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 prime lens will allow you to shoot clearly in low light levels even with hand-held shots, and creates beautiful bokeh in the background. A fast 100mm macro lens will allow you to take beautifully composed shots of the small details, like delicate eyelashes against a rosy cheek, or tiny fingernails on tiny hands.

Photo credit: Philms on Flickr Creative Commons

Four – Avoid flash. The use of a flash often creates a harsh light that is uncomplimentary to the dreamy look that is popular when photographing infants. If a flash is absolutely necessary, be sure to bounce it off of a surface to soften the light. It is recommended to use natural daylight (a northward-facing window provides excellent light quality) or use indirect constant light bounced off of hand-held reflectors to illuminate the baby.

Five – Use backdrops and accessories. Take a couple of test shots using a doll as a test subject so you can get the composition right before having to disturb the infant. A solid colored dark or black blanket or backdrop, when used in tandem with a single off-center light source, creates a soft yet dramatic look. Beanies can cover heads that are still growing into a natural shape after the rigors of birth. The use of solid colors, rather than gaily patterned blankets or clothing, reduces the risk of a shot being too busy or distracting. Limit the range of colors within the photograph so the attention is fully drawn to the intended subject, the baby.