Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Low light pics – not always a success

The passing of Christmas (with its fun lighting) and the arrival of some pretty rotten weather – heavy rain and wind – has curtailed low light pic fun somewhat, and seen me arrive home soaked through to the skin, not a usual occurrence so I know the rain is unusually heavy.

In the absence of anything decent to point at, I thought I use one of my failed shots to show how easy it is to get careless.

The pic below is probably recognisable as a cat at night, but that’s more luck than design.

First mistake was that the camera settings were all wrong. I hadn’t worked things out and this was a grab shot made quickly before the cat walked away. The camera was set to allow long exposures (as in having a tripod or other support if shooting in the dark), so a hand-held grab was never really on – but I tried.

Next was the lighting, and not taking into account how good eyes are compared to cameras.

Although I could see the cat, when I reviews the location of this failed shot, I found I was standing in a side street where the street lighting had failed. This meant the only light available was coming from the lights in the street behind the cat, and that makes then at least 3o metres away, and probably more in reality.

They’re also very yellow low-pressure sodium, so playing with the white balance makes no difference to the view, just changes the colour, or becomes grey.

If the weather dries up, before the evenings get light, or the council fixes the dead street lighting, I might go take a comparison shot of the same spot, just to see if proper settings do actually work better.

Dark cat

Dark cat – how NOT to take a low light pic and get shaky

In all seriousness, there is actually a valuable lesson to be learnt from this pic, and which has paid dividends in other pics I have since taken.

Despite the nostalgia (and some seem to have the same fatal affinity for film as others have for vinyl), film is not digital – and vice versa – applying film techniques to digital photography may not always work.

While one can still make long exposures, one no longer HAS to in order to get a low light pic.

Granted, one needs a good camera with a big sensor (and this also flies in the face of the old film adage that it’s not the camera, but the photographer that matters), but that in hand, it’s possible to flaunt the old rules, add an anti-vibration lens, and take hand-held pics in low light.

With care, even noise/grain become a non-issue – but again, the big sensor plays a part for that to be true.

And if you want noise/grain, you can still make it happen with appropriate settings.

One surprise I’ve dug out of noisy low light pics is that the noisier ones actually end up with less smoothing when processed, and can deliver greater detail. I’ve been able to read printing caught in noisy pics, but only been able to see that there is printing, but not read it, with lower noise settings.


Found myself in the same place, and at night.

Took another shot in passing, but it was a terrible night throwing rain down, and I wasn’t chancing getting things wet while fiddling with settings.

While it is better, I hadn’t anticipated taking any pics in low light, so I was still in largely daytime settings – maybe next time.

Dark no cat

Dark no cat


January 30, 2014 - Posted by | photography | ,

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