Taking night and lowlight photographs

450d Low Light Action
9.27 Low-light scenes such as sports events, interiors, and music concerts offer wonderful photo opportunities, but they are challenging in terms of exposure, timing for capturing the action, and composition.

Table 9.9 Night and Low-Light Photography

Setup In the Field: The primary setup for figure 9.27 was to find the shooting position that included the sign, "Lucille's Roadhouse," which is an historic name along this stretch of old Route 66 in Oklahoma.

Additional Considerations: If you are photographing outdoor night and low-light images, ensure that your composition has a clear subject and isn't visually confusing by including too much in the frame. Be aware that passing cars and nearby lights can influence the camera's meter reading. You may need to wait for cars to pass or use the Spot meter.

Lighting In the Field: I wish that I could take credit for the interesting lighting, but this type of lighting is used throughout different areas of this local diner. I could have set a custom white balance, but given the range of twinkle lights under the bar, I opted to retain the color of the lights.

Additional Considerations: If you're shooting scenes with floodlit buildings, bridges, or other night scenes, begin shooting just after sunset so the buildings stand out from the surroundings. And whether you're shooting indoors or outdoors, check the histogram on the LCD to ensure that highlights are not being blown out. Shadows will block up quickly in low light, but if you're shooting RAW capture, you can open the shadows some and apply noise reduction if necessary during image conversion.

Lens In the Field: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens.

Additional Considerations: A wide-angle zoom lens set to 18mm or 24mm allows you to get a broad expanse of night and evening scenes. Telephoto lenses, of course, are great for bringing distant scenes closer. Regardless of the lens you use, mount the camera or lens on a tripod to ensure tack-sharp focus.

Camera Settings In the Field: Aperture-priority AE (Av), RAW capture with white balance set to auto (AWB) and adjusted during RAW conversion, Evaluative metering, One-shot AF mode with manual AF-point selection.

Additional Considerations: Aperture-priority AE (Av) mode gives you control over the depth of field. If you have to handhold the camera, you may want to use Tv mode and set a shutter speed that's appropriate for handholding the lens that you're using, and then make adjustments to the ISO as necessary. Low-light scenes are also a good time to use the Self-timer mode to trip the shutter and to use Mirror Lockup, which you can enable using C.Fn-9. For outdoor low-light and night shooting, I also turn on Long exposure noise reduction using C.Fn-3.

continued

Table 9.9 (continued)

Exposure In the Field: ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/13 second. I applied some noise reduction to the image during RAW image conversion. Because I didn't have a tripod handy, I set the camera on top of a chair back to stabilize it.

Additional Considerations: Light changes quickly in late-day outdoor scenes. This is a good time to consider using Auto ISO where the Rebel automatically sets the ISO between 100 and 800 based on the available light. Just past sunset, you can usually rely on the meter to give a good exposure, but you may choose to bracket exposures at 1/3-or 1/2-stop intervals. However, if bright lights surround the scene, the meter can be thrown off. Check the histogram often, and use a lens hood to avoid having stray light coming into the lens.

Accessories Using a tripod or setting the camera on a solid surface is essential in low-light scenes.

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