Happy Halloween! While it may be one of the most fun and exciting nights of the year, in a week, once the candy buzz has worn off (or in a month, or 6 months), you might not be able to remember all of the details. How did we get that face paint on so perfectly? What did that house with the amazing decorations look like? Wait, what costume was I even wearing?
In order to document all the Halloween festivities, you probably want to make sure you’ve got a top-rated digital camera to take photos with. And since most of the action will start once the sun goes down, here are some tips for taking nighttime, low light pictures. Because, well, a bad picture can be pretty scary.
Night Mode 101
Most basic Night Mode settings do three things in your camera: lower the shutter speed, adjust the ISO to a higher setting, and engage the flash. These all serve basically the same purpose: to capture more light in dark areas. By dropping the shutter speed and raising the ISO, your camera increases the exposure time of a photo. This also gives your flash more time to work, often giving photos a softer look and feel.
The tradeoff for all these changes, however, is that movement will not be your friend. Longer exposure times mean that even small movements, both by your subject or the hand holding the camera, become amplified and manifest as blur and noise (specklings of color) in your photos. The flash can also pose a problem if there are reflective surfaces — one of the most insidious being glasses or contact lenses.
These problems are easy to combat, however. The most important thing you can invest in to take away Night Mode woes is a tripod. Keeping your camera steady through the relatively long exposure process mitigates most of the problems above. Even a smaller, portable tripod that can be set on another steady surface (like a fence or a shelf) to bring it up to face level is a strong investment towards great pictures. If a tripod is out of the question, just find a surface to take the picture from, and make use of the timer function if it’s available to take any sort of shake from hitting the trigger button out of the equation.
To flash or not to flash?
Dealing with the flash is a much tougher proposition. With some newer cameras, you may have an option between a Night Portrait Mode and a Night Scenery Mode. The biggest difference between the two is whether or not the flash engages. If you’re having problems with the Portrait Mode, try switching to the Scenery Mode. If there’s just no way to disengage the flash with your Night Mode, try taking pictures in a more open space, like the outdoors. By removing potential reflective surfaces (even a wall can be a reflective surface), you can minimize unwanted effects of the flash, while still highlighting even the spookiest subjects.
Do you have any other tips for shooting in low light situations? Let us know in the comments.