[Lesson 4] Challenging Handheld Night Shots
The theme for the fourth article of this series is ISO speed. By making effective use of the ISO speed, you can capture handheld snapshots at night. This will help to broaden the scope of your photographic expression significantly. (Reported by: Yutaka Tanekiyo)
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Using ISO speed effectively to prevent camera shake
In addition to shutter speed and aperture, ISO speed is another crucial factor that must not be neglected. ISO speed is a numeric indication of the image sensor's sensitivity toward light, and is represented in a format such as "ISO 100" or "ISO 400". Learning to make full use of the ISO speed increases your shooting flexibility, as you will be able to utilize a wider range of apertures and shutter speeds.
For example, assuming a scene where the camera automatically sets the shutter speed and aperture to 1/30 second and f/3.5 respectively when you half-press the shutter button at ISO 100. What can you do to increase the shutter speed? If you are unable to widen the aperture any further, what you can do is to raise the ISO speed. By setting the ISO speed to ISO 400, you can increase the shutter speed to 1/125 second with the aperture remaining at f/3.5. In other words, if you are photographing a dimly-lit scene, you can raise the ISO speed to gain a faster shutter speed.
As an additional benefit, increasing the ISO speed also helps to prevent camera shake, thus reducing the risk of producing unsuccessful shots. In the following, let us try to take some actual handheld shots of night views to test the effect of raising the ISO speed.
1. Take a handheld shot that includes both the passenger ship and nightscape
I chanced upon an attractive night view and a passenger ship which I wanted to capture, but did not carry a tripod with me. I therefore decided to take a handheld snapshot. First of all, I tried setting the ISO speed to ISO 800.
2. ISO 800—The image turned out blurry due to camera shake
ISO 800, 1/10 sec
At first I thought ISO 800 was sufficient, but I was totally wrong. The shutter speed slowed down to 1/10 second, resulting in a very blurry shot.
3. ISO 3200—Captured the shot as desired
ISO 3200, 1/40 sec
Raising the ISO speed to ISO 3200 increased the shutter speed to 1/40 second, allowing the night view to be captured clearly. Noise was also not noticeable, and the shot turned out the way I wanted. It would be a waste to have the photo of a beautiful view turn out blurry because of camera shake. If you want to capture a nightscape without using a tripod, try raising the ISO speed!
Identifying scenes suitable for high ISO speed shots
Using a high ISO speed enables you to capture handheld shots in a wide variety of situations. Some of them include moving objects such as vehicles and animals, dimly-lit indoor locations such as inside a museum, and snapshots of night views. Try making good use of high ISO speeds to enjoy taking snapshots under low light conditions.
Handheld shot of an indoor location
A dimly-lit indoor location, where faint light from outside and a naked bulb are the only light sources. At ISO 1600, I was able to capture a clear shot without causing any camera shake.
Handheld snapshot of a night view
This is an example of a snapshot that makes good use of a high ISO speed (ISO 3200). You are encouraged to raise the ISO speed boldly.
Photographing moving objects in a dark location
Among the many different scenarios, photo shooting inside an aquarium is one of the greater challenges. You can use ISO 6400 as the standard setting if you are trying to freeze the movement of fish swimming in a dimly-lit tank.
Born in 1982 in Osaka. After graduating from the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Kyoto Sangyo University as a German language major, Tanekiyo worked as an assistant to Toshinobu Takeuchi, after which he became an independent photographer.
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