Low Light Photography: Town of Sagada

It’s naturally harder to shoot in low light than in a good light, but results can be much more rewarding. When there’s a light in a scene, we usually have two choices, either you make more light yourself or changing the settings on your camera to react to the available light. I’m always fond of low light photography as it contributes to the improvement of my skills in handling different shooting conditions.

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Basically, we have three ways of getting more light into your camera in a low light situation; aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The wider the aperture, the more light you let in. The wider the aperture, the lower the F number.

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The photo below was shot on Canon 70D but, if I remember correctly, it was F/1.8 for 1/20 of a second at ISO 200. A well exposed photo in low light, with a wide enough aperture to let more light in is enough to produce a shallow depth of field.

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As a rule of thumb, the average person can take a sharp, blur free image by setting the speed to a fraction of the focal length. For example, to take a photo at 28mm, you would set the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second; any slower and motion blur is likely to occur.

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When I’m taking photos of groups of people in, for example, I’m always careful about how wide my aperture is as I will end up with half of the people out of focus.

This is a good time to use the flash but invest in a proper external flash unit, it’ll make a world of difference. The built in flash is not enough, it lacks light and the correct tone. The shots above are taken inside Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, Mountain Province.

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I got the chance to take this show of a bonfire using 28mm lens at F/3.2 for 1/30 at ISO 600. This is slightly trickier to manage on most cameras as, the higher the ISO, the more digital noise there will be, which can be pretty out of place. Turning on Bulb mode helps too but I can’t say much about it as I don’t use it a lot. Some more sample shots below taken during the night at Sagada and at Diplomat Hotel.

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The key to a good low light output is a good fast prime lens. And although a fast lens can be very expensive, there are affordable primes out there. Also take note that turning on VR or IS in your camera helps a lot and if possible, shoot in RAW so you have more room in post production.

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