Working in low light conditions can be very frustrating for photographers. If you have a tripod and shoot a steady scene – well, you basically don’t have a problem here. But the conditions are often far from ideal. First, you don’t have a tripod. The light is horrible to say the least, yet you must shoot from hand. Naturally, this can drive you insane because it’s hard to get sharp photos, even with the steadiest hands. But fortunately, you can stabilize the camera, reduce shake and make sharp images even in crappy light. David Bergman will show you how.
The basic rule of sharp images is that the denominator of your shutter speed should be two times higher than your lens’ focal length. In other words, if you use a 50mm lens, you will need at least 1/100s shutter speed to keep the images shake-free. Sounds like science fiction if you shoot a blues gig at a dark local bar (trust me, I know). If you get in a situation where high ISO and wide aperture don’t do the trick, you can use lower shutter speed and apply these tricks:
Put your left hand underneath the lens to stabilize the camera. Make sure to keep the elbows tight to your side, because it gives you additional stability. Spread your feet a bit, because it gives you a more solid stance. If there’s something to lean on, like a wall or a tree – go for it!
I know, it’s hard not to hyperventilate when the unsharp photos drive you mad. But taking slow, deep breaths will help you stabilize the camera and make the images sharper. And it’s good for stress relief, too. As you breathe slowly, take shots at the end of each exhale, because that’s when your hands are the steadiest.
OVF or EVF?
Bergman suggests looking through the optical viewfinder rather than through the LCD screen. Why’s that so? It’s because the additional contact of the camera with your face improves stabilization further. I’d also add that it’s because looking through the OVF makes it possible for you to keep the elbows tight to the side.
Let me show you some examples:
If you really must use the LCD (if you are shooting a video, for example), you can hang the camera strap around the neck and hold the camera as far from the body as possible. This works sort of like a string tripod, and it really does wonders.
If none of this works, Bergman humorously suggests that you switch the camera to “Burst Mode” and shoot like crazy, even in low shutter speed. Out of 100 photos, 1 will turn out good for sure and make you look like a genius. You can delete all the blurry photos. No one will know.
Do you use these tricks? What are your tricks for stabilizing the camera in poor light? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments (and use them for my next blues gig :)).