The trees are showing their vibrant colours and my favourite season of all is officially here, but I know that Autumn means frustration for many hobby photographers who don't know how to capture beautiful scenes as the abundant summer light fades.
The great news is that a few professional tricks are all you need to continue shooting in low light, not fancy studio lighting. Today my subjects are gathered finds from the woodland at the end of our lane. Naturally I'm using my favourite Photo Boards® backdrops in this blog and just a window in my studio for light.
As the inventor of Photo Boards® I may be a tiny bit biased about how wonderful they are to use, but they really do make snapping some beautiful photos easy and super quick. I spent around 2 mins with each shot today, easily switching between boards to set a new scene.
Now I love rich shadows, that's just my style as a professional photographer, but just because the light is low that doesn't mean you can't capture bright bold images.
There are 4 key shooting elements I recommend to my photography students when shooting in low light: TRIPOD // DELAY // ISO // WHITE BALANCE
First up the tripod, you absolutely must use a tripod in low light. Your camera needs more time to capture that beautiful light which means slower shutter speeds and a higher chance of blurry photos if you don't stabilise your camera with a tripod.
Once your camera is nice and sturdy you need to delay the capture. By this I mean using one of 3 methods to ensure you don't have to physically push the shutter release button at the time of capture, adding further possibility for blurring, no matter how gentle you are.
You could simply use your camera's self timer function, you know the one... beep beep beep (quick everyone get in the photo) click!
Alternatively you could use a remote control or cable release if you have one.
Another delay technique that is especially useful for close up/macro shots is to use the mirror lock up function found on a DSLR which will reflex the internal mirror up slightly in advance of the shutter firing. That tiny delay means the motion of the mirror flipping up inside the camera body does not cause blur from vibrations during the capture.
Next up let's talk ISO - that setting on your smartphone app and camera that must not be left to it's own devices!
When left set to AUTO in low light, the ISO will be increased to high grainy levels. Grainy shots can be beautiful so it's not a terrible thing to have noise in your photo as it is known in photography terms, but it should be a creative choice.
To gain more clarity in your photos a low ISO of around 100-200 is preferred, however lowering the ISO will slow down shutter speeds just like the low light does. You don't want to wait for several minutes for each photo to be captured, so maybe an ISO of 400-800 would work better for you. Generally go as low as you can to avoid grainy pictures.
Not sure if your photo is grainy? Zoom in on the captured photo with your camera and see if any grain is visible. It is unlikely to be visible on a small preview pane so zooming in to view the image at 100% is important.
White Balance is the final consideration because light changes in colour throughout the day and with shorter days here in the Northern Hemisphere that change will be more obvious.
AWB Auto White Balance is pretty accurate on most devices but if you do find your photos are taking on a cool tint as the light fades, check out the CLOUD (cloud icon) and SHADE (little house icon) options as an alternative to the Daylight (sunshine icon) and see if your colours are more accurate.
Finally when it comes to shadows I love to embrace them, especially during Autumn/Winter but if you prefer light bright photos then the reverse of a Photo Board makes an awesome white reflector for bouncing light back into your shadow areas.
If like me you love shadows, play with the depth of your shadows by moving your Photo Board closer to and further from the light. If you want to adjust the length of the shadows a higher light source will shorten them and a lower light source will lengthen, just like the shadows from trees during sunset.
It's great fun adjusting the scene in this way and a subtle change will make a big difference to the final result.
So, grab your tripod, delay your capture, check your ISO and adjust your White Balance and you should easily cope with the gloomier days as we move into Autumn and Winter. Of course if you are almost shooting in the dark then these settings won't save you, take a look at continuous (plug in, always on) lighting options. Our stockists WEX Photographic have a cool Interfit continuous lighting set, perfect for beginners.
We love to see your Photo Boards shots so do continue to share them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with #PhotoBoardsHQ
Thanks for reading!