Most photographers will tell you that a tripod is essential and that it is their most often carried item. While a tripod is still an important piece of equipment, especially for low-light shooting, it is also the camera accessory that attracts the most attention.
You’ll need to shoot images in severe low light circumstances as a professional photographer, or even as a hobbyist. As if that weren’t enough, you also had to shoot without a tripod on sometimes.
As you begin to shoot outside more frequently, you may find yourself leaving the house without some essential photographic equipment! Perhaps you’re in the heart of the French Quarter and don’t have room for a tripod, or you’re in an area where tripods are prohibited. Perhaps you don’t want to attract unwanted attention with your tripod when capturing musicians or street reportage.
In any event, shooting in low light without a tripod is difficult but not impossible. In this article, I’ll cover some of my favorite tips for photographing in low light without one, and then give you the proper guidelines to get out there.
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WHAT IS LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY?
Low light photography is the act of shooting at night or in dark spaces with low levels of available natural and artificial lighting.
Don’t you just adore dark and gloomy street photography, sunset landscape photography, and portrait photography with warm candlelight illuminating the face? Doesn’t it make you want to learn how to photograph in the dark?
Low-light shooting with a DSLR, on the other hand, presents its own set of obstacles. What are the optimum camera settings for low-light situations, for example? What camera or lens is ideal for low-light photography? When it’s dark, how can you capture sharp photos?
Types of Low Light
1. Day Light
These are the shadowy locations that can be found during the day. Large buildings or trees can cast shadows that are -2 stops darker than well-lit regions. If the weather is terrible and the sky is cloudy, you may need to modify your photo to compensate for the low light.
2. Inside Light
When you’re inside a museum, a church, or a residence, there won’t be a lot of natural light.
3. Night Light
Finally, there are the apparent low-light conditions that happen in the early evening and at night. Sunset photography and photographing during the golden hour are examples of this.
So you want to know the most important photography strategies for taking photos in low light without using a tripod?
Stay with us and we’ll take you to step by step through the process!
1. SHOOT IN RAW
It’s a no-brainer to shoot in raw, and it’s not only for low-light photography. You should shoot in raw mode all of the time. In every way, the quality of a raw file is higher than that of a JPEG file. And that’s exactly what we need while photography in low light.
With a raw file, you’ll have greater flexibility in post-production. Exposure, white balance, and noise reduction are the three areas where a raw file may make all the difference in low-light photography.
-If you need to modify the white balance, which is almost always the case while shooting in artificial light, raw is the ideal mode to use.
-Lightroom’s noise reduction has gone a long way. When you shoot in raw, you can drastically minimize the amount of noise in your photographs.
2. SHOOT IN MANUAL
Yes, taking gorgeous dark images is a great motivator to get out of Auto mode! You may control the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture in Manual Mode. Low-light photography is a common scenario in which you must take command of your camera.
If you don’t feel comfortable using Manual Mode, you may use Shutter Speed Priority Mode instead. In this Semi-Automatic Mode, you may control the shutter speed while the camera determines the aperture. If required, you may also employ Exposure Compensation.
The slowest shutter speed your camera can withstand is determined by the focal length of your lens, but we’ll leave that discussion for another time.
It’s safe to claim that anything faster than 1/250 sec will provide a crisp image. You can go a little slower if your lens has image stabilization.
3. Bump Up Your ISO
So, what exactly am I referring to? One of the three pillars of exposure is ISO. It influences how sensitive your sensor is to light.
Your camera has a sensor that captures light, and the higher you set your ISO number, the more sensitive it is to low-light conditions. That means when you raise it up from 100 (the standard), 200 or 400 will help improve image quality in lower levels of illumination.
The only downside: Noise becomes an issue so bumping up the ISO too high can also produce grainy photos instead of sharp images.
That’s why you should shoot in raw so you can decrease noise in post-production. It’s all linked, as you can see!
A good rule of thumb for many cameras is setting the ISO as low as possible while still getting acceptable shots under given circumstances. Then, if necessary increase by 50 points at a time until there’s no noise evident in your photographs – even though they’ll be shot without a tripod!
4. Use A Wider Aperture
Using a wide aperture may be your first effort at shooting in low light, depending on what you’re capturing. Basically, under these scenarios, the more light you can get into the camera, the better. A larger aperture, such as f/3.5 or f/2.8, will achieve this. Isn’t that what you’re thinking? However, employing a wide aperture comes at a cost.
The shallower your depth of field becomes, the larger your aperture. To put it another way, if you’re capturing a landscape view, you’ll notice that not all of your images are sharp.
Obviously, this is a problem for landscape photography, as you’ll need to maintain the image crisp all the way through. However, if you’re shooting a picture of someone and simply need their face in focus, a smaller depth of field can be used.
Now, an aperture is a strange character since he does everything backward. The smaller the aperture, the higher the number. Allow me to explain.
The entrance is relatively tiny and lets in very little light with an aperture of 11. When you select an aperture of 2.8, for example, the hole is larger, allowing more light in. I realize it’s perplexing.
When shooting images in the dark, remember that a small number equals a large hole, which equals more light.
If you have a camera with a low aperture value, there’s no need to raise the ISO. You can just reduce the shutter speed and use a wider aperture when shooting in low light conditions.
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5. Use Burst Mode
You should be able to choose between single, continuous, and burst modes. Burst mode shoots a bunch of images in quick succession when you hit the shutter release button. This means that if your subject moves or changes expressions during the shooting process, then there’s a good chance at least one image will look perfect.
These days, almost all cameras offer a burst mode. When the camera fires off many frames in a second, this is known as burst shooting. Some DSLRs with more advanced features will offer a high-speed burst mode that operates even quicker.
When you use shorter shutter speeds, you’ll undoubtedly notice that the first photo you take has a little more camera wobble than the subsequent photos. This is usually due to the lack of your initial hand movement while pushing the shutter button.
If your camera has a burst or high-speed burst mode, use it if you’re shooting handheld in low light. It could well be able to assist you to shoot a photo that is crisper than you could with a single shot.
However, bear in mind that burst mode consumes more battery power and, as a result, your memory card will fill up faster. As a result, make sure you have extras on hand.
6. SHOOT WITH A PRIME LENS
It’s not so much the camera that makes a difference while photography in low-light circumstances. Although full-frame cameras perform better in low-light situations due to their larger sensor, it is the lens that makes the difference.
A prime lens, or one with a fixed focal length, is the ideal lens for low-light photography. Prime lenses have a higher quality than zoom lenses in general. Prime lenses, on the other hand, generally have a larger aperture. A wide aperture allows in more light, giving you greater leeway when it comes to ISO and shutter speed. A lens with a large aperture is referred to as a fast lens since it allows for a faster shutter speed.
When shooting with a prime lens, you may find that the tripod can be put away for shots taken at slower shutter speeds.
7. Use a Speedlight as Fill Flash
Assume that there is some ambient light in your scenario, but not enough to adequately illuminate your subject. So your subject is darkened, but the background is pretty bright. You may use a Speedlight as a fill light to fill in the dark shadows on your subject in instances like these.
However, balancing the flashlight with the ambient light might be difficult. A powerful front flash may overwhelm the ambient light in the backdrop, making your subject appear flat and too brilliant against a dark background.
However, you don’t want to ruin your photo’s natural look. You just want to add some fill light to your foreground topic. Here are a few options for softening your fill flash.
Instead of focusing your flashlight directly on the person, bounce it on the ceiling or wall. A reflective card can also be used for this purpose.
- Reduce the harshness of your flashlight by using a diffuser on it.
- To obtain more control over the strength of your flashlight, switch from TTL to manual flash mode.
- Reduce the flash exposure correction to a value of -0.8 or less.
8. Use proper camera holding techniques
Learning the appropriate stance and camera holding technique in low-light photography will provide you even more freedom when it comes to preventing camera wobble.
It’s crucial about stability, so make sure your feet are planted firmly and shoulder-width apart. Hold the lens steady with your left hand while your right hand is on the shutter button. Tuck your elbows under your chest and keep your breathing under control, firing after each exhale if feasible. All of these factors will help to your own calm, reducing handshake blur.
9. FIND THE SWEET SPOT
When photographing low light scenes, you will need to find your camera’s “sweet spot.” This is the aperture setting that allows for maximum depth of field.
It’ll also produce a photo with an even exposure across the frame. For most cameras, this sweet spot happens at around ƒ/11 or ƒ/16-ish (depending on how much control you have over your lens).
There are two ways to do it:
- Manually set your camera to its lowest possible ISO before changing the shutter speed and aperture until both settings match.
- Or use Autofocus lock mode which locks focus and metering while sampling different focal lengths by repeatedly pressing halfway down on the shutter release button before remeasuring focus.
10. CREATE YOUR OWN TRIPOD
You’ll learn up tips and strategies that you’ll apply in your photography as time goes on. Using my backpack has proven to be one of the handiest tools I’ve discovered. Put it on the floor and place your camera on top, and you’ve got yourself a fast tripod without the hassle of a tripod.
This method has come in handy in areas where tripods are prohibited, such as museums and galleries. Your backpack may be stowed on benches or even hung from a tree limb.
A wall, a stone, or even your knee might be the source of this pain. Simple devices like these can aid in the stabilization of your camera and the capture of beautiful landscape photographs.
Always keep your hands on your camera, no matter what you’re shooting. This ensures the safety of your equipment at all times. You can use a timer if you’re concerned about shaking your camera when you hit the shutter.
The Bottom Line
Landscape photography in low light is a fascinating topic that you should explore. You don’t have to avoid using a tripod just because you don’t have one.
To get the most out of your experience, familiarize yourself with various ISO and aperture settings. Remember to utilize items for support as needed and to stand in the proper position. The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to shoot stunning landscape shots at any time of day.