Winter's Coming

So how’s the first week of daylight saving time treating you? I have to admit, it’s kicking my ass this time around. I’m not getting accustom to the time change at all. But it brings to mind something salient to photography. With less available light, and more hours of darkness throughout the season, you’ll more often be faced with low-light shooting conditions. Unless you’re shooting between 7am and 5pm - you’re going to need to ensure you have a few things with you so your photography doesn’t suffer during the winter:

  • A Big Sensor. I know I’ve spent a good deal of time advocating for smartphone cameras on this blog. Unfortunately, smartphones are not up-to-snuff in low-light conditions. The sensors are too small. The flashes are too weak. For good quality, low-light photos - you’re going to need a camera with a decently sized sensor (bigger sensor = more light) and good high-ISO performance.
  • Fast Glass. If you have a lens with an f-stop of f3.5 or f4 on the large end. It’s going to be difficult to pull off a low-light shot that isn’t blurred or grainy. Get a lens with at least f2.8 if not better (f1.8, f1.4 or f1.2). The more the lens can open up - the more light you can capture.
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). In my opinion, this is a good companion to having large aperture. However, if you can only choose between being able to afford a lens with a larger aperture or a lens with image stabilization - go for the larger aperture. Image stabilization is either in the camera body (in which case the sensor moves to compensate for shake) or in lens (in which the lens elements move to compensate for shake) or both! I’ve seen claims that OIS can give you the equivalent of up to 4 stops of light (i.e. you're able to shoot a slower shutter speeds without noticeable camera motion blur). However, in my opinion, these claims are always a little far fetched and mainly used for marketing purposes. I mean, it’s great to be able to shoot a handheld exposures at a 10th of a second - but there will be elements of your composition that will have moved in a 10th of a second (children, pets, wind, etc...) - causing blur anyway. Still, OIS is something that’s nice to have.
  • Flashes. In all honestly, you could have an entire website/blog/store devoted to flashes. So this isn’t going to be very in depth. I’ll just say again, smartphone flashes aren’t really going to give you much in the way of light quality or control. The same is also true of the built-in pop-up (or included) flashes on most DSLRs. These lights are horrible. Most other flashes will be an improvement over not having any additional light. And obviously, adding light to a low-light scenario, is one way of compensating for not having enough naturally available/ambient light.
  • Tripods. Last but certainly not least is a Tripod. This, relatively, inexpensive piece of equipment can vastly improve your low-light photography. Really, it can improve your photography all-around. If you don’t own a decent tripod - you should really think about getting one. It’s an essential piece of kit if you intend to shoot during the winter anytime past 5pm! The only problem with tripods are that there are too many options. Here is a good guide on choosing the right tripod for your needs.

What’s your faiourite way to shoot in low-light? Let me know in the comments. Also don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Feature Photography of the Week - Black Rainbow

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  Black paint poured over coloured powder.

Black paint poured over coloured powder.