A common question I get here is how to deal with harsh or low light situations. This is a great question, and for event photographers, it’s simply part of the job to recognize various lighting conditions and address them accordingly. Today, I’d like to share Five Ways to Deal with Harsh/Low Lighting:
1. Cranking the ISO and hoping to fix in post
With advancements in technology, noise handling both in camera and in post production has resulted in some astonishing results that in previous years would have been literally unrecoverable. While we should always endeavor to make our images shine as best we can in camera – advancements in tools of the trade simply give us more options and we would be foolish not to use them.
Here’s a good example of a shot that was done at a high in-camera ISO setting, that was recoverable to a good quality image. It may not necessarily be of “stock photography” caliber (you really need every pixel to be perfect for stock photography), but for event photography, I would consider this acceptable quality.
2. Implementing additional light sources (Flash, video lights, etc.)
3. Using a tripod/monopod in conjunction with longer exposures to increase odds of sharp captures
4. Use a gray card to get good white balance/off-set the ambient lighting conditions.
Having your subject hold a color balance card (or even just a gray card) in the scene for one shot is a great way to counter-act the effect of difficult lighting, including everything from halogen lights, to fluorescent, tungsten-florescent mixes, and the garish hue from sodium vapor lights common in locales like stadiums and street light settings.
5. Use supports from the surroundings to brace your camera
Using a tree, a wall, or even the ground to help stabilize your camera can reduce the shutter speed considerably to help when shooting in low light situations.
As much as we may try to hand hold our cameras, blur is unavoidable due to our heartbeats, finger tremors, breathing, and a host of biological factors, the best we can do is help to minimize that blur by using supporting mechanisms and techniques to get as stable a shot as we can. Even when we can hand-hold, matching that color from the scene is much easier to do when you start from a known vantage point, whether it be your own flash, or a controlled ambient scene. So much to think about and so little time…where do you want to go from here?
Hint: Sound off in the comments – would love to hear others thoughts, tips, and tricks for dealing with low and/or harsh lighting! Special thanks to Kerry Garrison of Kerry Garrison Photography for sharing a sample image from his own portfolio when I couldn’t track my own down in the library (bad me for not keywording fully!)…