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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Mid-Autumn Festival: Dealing with Low Light

2016-09-26
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7.58 k
In this article:

EOS 1000D, EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II lens, f/4, 55mm, 1/13, ISO200 by Jorge Cancela
A row of lanterns with a silhouetted figure

Following up on my mid-autumn photography tips, here’s a how-to for dealing with low light, as you would during the festivities which mainly happen at night. These 4 tips should send you on your way to being a mid-autumn shooting pro.

EOS 5D Mark II, EF50mm f/1.2L USM lens, f/1.2, 50mm, 1/125, ISO800
Patrons in a lantern store in Chinatown

Tip #1 - SAY NO TO FULL FLASHES

For obvious reasons to any seasoned photographer, not all situations can benefit from you using flash. For example, in addition to annoying your subjects, the flash tends to light your subject from the front only, compressing the depth of the photo you are trying to capture. This can leave a lot of the surroundings blacked out or out of focus. Using flash on a photo of lantern processions can greatly decrease the beauty of the moment by flooding it in unnatural light. Instead, (get a friend to help with this) use your smartphone torch as fill light.

EOS 5D Mark III, EF50mm f/1.2L USM lens, f/1.4, 1/60, 50mm, ISO5000
A child celebrates the mid-autumn festival with a traditional paper lantern

Tip #2 - Use a Fast Lens

In my last article on Capturing The Spirit of Mooncake festival,I mentioned that a fast lens, which has a wide aperture, gathers more light in - exactly what you need in low light. But be careful with your shots as this creates a very shallow depth of field and makes it easy for you to go out of focus. I use the EF50mm f/1.2L USM lens 1.2 and EF24mm f/1.4L II USM lens for shots like this. 

EOS 5D Mark III, EF85mm f/1.2L II USM, f/1.2, 85mm, 1/8000, ISO12800
Store filled with various lanterns. Grain can add an interesting dimension to your images too.

Tip #3 - Crank Up The ISO

The lower the ISO, the less sensitive your sensor is to light. Lower ISOs give you a more realistic representation of light, but when that is scarce, making your camera a bit more sensitive to what light you have is your best bet. There’s is a disadvantage however, which comes with higher ISOs; more noise. You may end up with grainy shots, so avoid this technique if you’re going to blow up your picture for a billboard ad.

EOS 5D Mark II, EF50mm f/1.2L USM lens, f/1.8, 50mm, 1/60, ISO5000
A little girl wields her traditional lantern

Tip #4 - Slow Down Your Shutter

Reducing the shutter speed leaves the shutter open for longer, meaning you’re letting more light in. Pretty straightforward isn’t it? Well, not quite. You see, the longer the shutter is open, the more you’ll see motion blur, so this technique is much better suited to landscape photos with little movement, and a very stable camera. Bring along a tripod if you don’t trust your hands!

 

Quick Tips:

  • Never use full flash as it flattens the depth of your image  
  • Use a fast lens with wider aperture, but wary of your focus
  • Bring up your ISO to compensate for lack of light, but note this will result in grain
  • Bring along a tripod 

 

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Photographer Profile

Jana Yar

Jana is the founder and owner of Ensof Photography, a boutique firm providing professional corporate, event and food photography services in Singapore. Her work has been showcased in a number of exhibitions in Asia and Europe, receiving 2nd Place in public votes at the KL Photo Awards Malaysia; 1st Place at the Off Festival Slovakia; 2nd Place Julia Margaret Cameron Prize for Women Photographers at the WPGA(UK) Annual contest; and Renaissance Photography Finalist. 

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