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Shooting in Low Light

January 22, 2010

Tips and Tricks on using a point and shoot

This is the first post in a series of mini tutorials and notes on making the most of your point and shoot camera.

Most compact digital cameras are marketed towards the consumer that just wants to grab a camera and shoot great pictures without all the waddling about with lenses and  focal this, focus that. The average consumer just wants to snap, upload and share. Most compact digitals get the job done wonderfully.

That’s not to say they don’t come with extra stuff than you can use to take even better images. Most do. One of the main shortfalls of these cameras is its weak low light sensitivity that causes pictures to come out blurry, the lower the light. In this post I am going to discuss shooting in Low Light conditions and how best to improve your shots.

The key to taking night photographs is reducing camera shake. You have got to keep the camera steady. Mount it on a tripod if available and use the timer to set the shot off 10 seconds later, reducing any shake after pressing the shutter button.

The next thing to consider is the image noise. Measured as ISO sensitivity where the higher the ISO number ranging from 100, 200, 400, 800 etc) the more sensitive to light it is, at the expense of image quality. In fact, images with high ISO values, are filled with a grainy look, that is commonly known as noise and is considered a low quality picture. Basically you want to shoot with as low an ISO number as possible for the highest image quality.

So when you set up your low light shot,

  • switch on any low noise reducing option your point and shoot might have
  • Some compacts lets you choose an ISO number try numbers less than 200
  • Increase your camera’s aperture if you can. Aperture is the circular opening than can increase or decrease in diameter to allow more light in. A large aperture lets more light in through the sensor
  • Use the landscape mode and or the night mode.
  • turn off flash. Flash usually illuminates the closest subject, but not the entire scene you’re trying to capture. You’ll find your images with very dark backgrounds if you use flash for scenic photos.
  • keep the camera steady.

If you’re taking portraits (pictures of people) at night, the flash can be creatively used to capture their faces, but expect the backgrounds to be dark.  I will post  in the future about when and when not to use flash.

I hope the post shared some interesting ideas and I hope you can test it out. If you have any other tips or tricks please share them in the comments below!

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