Tips for Photograph People / Objects in Low Light, Night Condition

From casual to professional photos, the relationship between the photographer and the lighting points is always a challenge. Find techniques, settings and tricks to get good pictures even when the light does not help.

The important thing is to test the possibilities of your equipment and use the optimal configuration for each click, as we can not always control the lighting of the environment where we are.

Adjust the sensitivity (ISO) in dark environments

In the "easy" mode, the camera automatically increases ISO sensitivity of the sensor to capture more image detail, according to the ambient light.

But the ideal is that you know the possibilities of your camera and use the ISO to capture images without loss of quality because the higher the sensitivity, the higher the risk of getting image noise.

Comparison of images captured using different ISO 

Remember that the higher the sensitivity, the higher the speed you can assign the shutter while avoiding camera shake.

As noted in the above image, with ISO 100 (low sensitivity) the image was "shaky" because the camera took longer to record the image and the model moved. On the other hand, captured with ISO 6400 (high sensitivity) image the camera recorded the image very quickly ("still" image), but had noise. In this situation it would be best to keep shooting with ISO sensitivity between 800 and 1600.

The ideal illumination for small objects

For clean images of small objects with neutral backgrounds (white, black or colored), professionals use a "light tent", also called "diffuser tent."

The term "diffuser" is assigned because the sides and top are made of translucent material. This lets you soften the light that enters the tent, illuminating your subject more evenly, smoothing shadows.

Professional diffuser tent, left, and improvised options 

Smaller versions Professional (30 x 30 x 30 cm) can be found from less than US $100, but improvising with materials with a cardboard box, you will not spend much. Using a cardboard box, tissue and ribbon adhesive, you can build your own tent. In another example, the photographer used a white bucket just translucent.

In our article on how to photograph objects that reflect, teach some techniques for photographing this kind of object without the reflection of the photographer's own environment and interfere with the picture.

Using flash in macro photos

Anyone who has tried to use the built-in camera flash in macro photos may have noticed that the results are nothing legal. The equipment suitable for this situation is the circular flash ("flash ring").

Examples of using the circular flash

Circular Flash can be found around US $ 150, and the most advanced versions cost more than US $1500. But it is also possible to improvise a diffuser that can help you get reasonable results. You must use translucent materials, making a hole that allows the lens fit, and the "ring" will distribute the light around the lens.

Diffuser made ​​of translucent material can help get macro shots with better lighting 

Improvising lighting diffusers

The "softbox" is a professional equipment used in conjunction with reflectors (lamp) to illuminate objects and people. The softbox is like the frame of a lamp with a translucent fabric in front to soften the light. And the reflector would be the electrical part, which fits the bulb.

Professionals use with softbox reflectors, attached to a tripod that allows adjustment of the height direction. If you wish to purchase this type of equipment, stay tuned, because these parts are sold separate.

Comparison between the lighting object made ​​by direct light with diffuser and equipment 

You can improvise a diffuser with a simple sheet of paper rolled up and fastened with clips on a table lamp.

Makeshift diffuser paper stuck to a table lamp

The luminaries with flexible arms are ideal for you to direct the light where you want, and shooting people, environments and objects as desired.

In the example below, notice that the drop shadow is much smoother when using the diffuser. Furthermore, object colors are best portrayed because the white areas caused by excess light soften (something similar happens with faces).

Comparing two images shot without diffuser, left, and diffuser, right 

Adjust the flash output

When the camera automatically adjusts the flash output, usually the results are not pleasing. This is one reason that leads many people to create some resistance to the use of flash.

Believe flash is your friend. You can adjust its power to avoid the "face of fear" and the formation of strong shadows. The difference between the results using the incorrect power and is ideal absurd.

Object photographed with different power flash

The measurement system of the ambient light in advanced cameras usually sees in setting the flash power. But this is a matter of taste and perception of each person. If you are not using professional equipment and the environment is dark, no problems if the picture is a bit dark. No need to increase the intensity of the flash point of letting people with "face of fright."

Flash diffusers

Flash is a very powerful light, which promises to be useful for photographing objects and environments. Therefore, it may seem excessive when photographed people and objects when they are near. If you decrease the flash power is not enough, you can use the flash diffuser to soften its "side effects".

There are models for compact cameras that have shoe, where the diffuser will be in front of the flash. It may seem awkward, but the results are worth it. 

Flash diffuser for compact cameras, and have shoe (socket) for flash

There are also models of diffusers that fit very "pop-up flash" (the ones that open) of superzoom cameras and DSLR. These models can be found for around US $50.

Diffuser for pop-up flash and DSLR cameras superzoom 

The "homemade" models are fairly easy to do. You can use anything from a simple sheet of paper until translucent plastic packaging. With this type of accessory, the light distributed by the environment and focuses less on greed closer objects.

Business Card diffuser transformed into batter, set in built-in camera flash

The amount of light that passes through the diffuser and "rebate" for the environment will depend on the degree of transparency of the material. In the above example, we used a calling card, and as it is thicker, part of the light is filtered and much spreads the environment capture the scene without the "excesses" and "explosions" of illuminated points.

In the example below, we use a diffuser with bond paper around the built-in flash. The difference in the picture may be subtle, but with the diffuser realize more naturally in the features.

Comparative photographs without using diffuser, left, and using flash diffuser for the right 

Step by step to get a good picture in adverse conditions without resorting to the flash

This is a guide to get good pictures in manual mode.

Step 1. Increase the ISO sensitivity up your camera can handle without generating "noise". Some models support capture images at ISO 3200 having a minimum noise.

Step 2. Adjust the speed to 1/50 s. This is a good speed to capture spontaneous moments, avoiding "blurry" images.

Step 3. Increase the maximum aperture. "Clear" lenses like the famous 50 mm f/1.8 aperture allows, but the background will be blurry. Evaluate the effect generated pleases you or not. If you prefer the crisp background, use little openings. The most common of DSLR lenses, the 18 ~ 55 mm generally have maximum aperture of f/3.5.

Step 4. Test your image.

Step 5. If the image was dark, you can decrease the speed (at the risk of the image to be blurry) or increase the ISO sensitivity (at the risk of getting an image with noise).

Well, better to have a noisy picture than "blurred". If you change your mind, fire the flash, adjusting its output to a minimum.

Create creative clicks

After learning a little about these lighting tricks and configuration of your hardware, try. Try to reproduce at home the "hostile environment" for photography and train.

Simulate scaled-down scenes that you'd like to click, and testing all configurations indicated and not indicated by the automatic mode on your camera.

Montage scene with objects

Question everything "easy" mode tells you to do, and try to obtain similar results using different settings. The scene modes can also be good sources for analysis. See the differences in the settings modes "fireworks", "summer" and "winter".

Image of the same person photographed with points of light from different angles

Note that different angles of the object relative to the point of enlightenment may result in different perceptions. In the example below, although the model keeps the same position and expression, each image "communicate" different feelings. Explore this concept in your upcoming clicks!

Important Tips

Professional photographic equipment will not fail to have its value. If you shoot professionally, have professional equipment. Customers may wonder "hacks" and improvised materials.

Do not use glues and tapes applied directly at the camera. You can jam moving parts and damage your equipment.

When using paper and plastics on light bulbs and electrical materials, make sure they are not in direct contact. Lamps get hot and there is risk of all catch fire.

Investigate external flash. The limitations of the built-in flash are analogous to the limitations of the "18-55mm lens kit." Over time, you realize that. Some even say that "you can not do anything with the inbuilt flash." It may seem an exaggeration, but the external flash gives the photographer a whole new different experience with light. And as everyone knows, is light picture.