When the lights are low ...
Anyone that follows us, especially on Instagram, will know that we love taking photos here in the Munchkin Patch. And lots of them! I will admit that it has only really been a love for me for the past few years, and growing up, I never appreciated the science behind a good photograph. My dad has been a photographer (and a damn amazing one!) since long before I was born, running his own photography business throughout much of my childhood. Until I was nine years old, we lived above his studio and shop, and he will today tell you stories of waves of inspiration that would consume him in the small hours which would find him downstairs in his studio, snapping away before the moment slipped away. And today, a year into his retirement, it would be extremely unusual to see him without his camera bag attached to him!
Today, here I am, thirty-something years old, living away from home with a beautiful family of my own, parenting three wonderful children with ... a photographer! Someone else who will grab his camera at any given moment, day or night, so as not to miss that magical moment. Because that is what photography is all about ... the moment. Miss that moment, and what could have been an amazing shot could quickly turn into a mediocre one. The right photograph tells a story, stirs an emotion - long after it is taken, and takes you back to that moment no matter how much time has passed.
Nowadays, so many people rely on the trusty, handy smartphone camera to take their everyday photos. This is still sometimes the case for The Man, even though he has a whole host of expensive equipment to use. The quality of smartphone cameras has improved so much in recent years, and many can achieve incredible results with them. However, they are still limited. We need to rely on a number of other natural factors around us, ones which are often out of our control, especially in the absence of good post editing knowledge.
One of these biggest factors is light.
We're now rapidly reaching the end of September which means shorter, duller days and much earlier loss of natural daylight. The evenings draw in suddenly, the curtains are closed, and very rapidly, those wonderful, vibrant photos we were taking just a few weeks ago are not so easy to capture. I own a bridge camera which has many fantastic features that can combat these often murky conditions, but artificial light can be a killer. It changes the temperature of a photograph, its shades, its overall quality. And the smartphone cannot always handle the conditions. Although I often have my camera nearby, my smartphone is still more handy, especially with our passionate use of Instagram, the phone is the trusty go to. In cases such as this, simply knowing how to use Instagram's range of filters and quick basic editing tools can help rescue a photo that lacks in quality, but even these can only enhance what is already there.
When I have photographs to take for a blog post, especially when I am taking product shots for a review that don't require the presence of the children, this is quite often what my front room will look like once they have gone to bed. However, by this time, I have usually lost the luxury of the light pouring through the windows which would normally give the subject a much more pleasant appearance in the finished photo. This set up is ideal in this situation, as the flash and the light box overrides the unstable, artificial light and can create a more consistent glow exactly where I want it. However, I am aware that this is not an everyday arrangement of equipment and not everyone is lucky enough to have this kind of apparatus to hand. And with the darker evenings drawing in, many will be looking for ideas of how to achieve good quality photographs when natural positive elements are not on our side.
When you experience poor quality lighting, it is very important to keep the camera as still as possible in order to achieve sharp images. Travel tripods are inexpensive and can ensure a steady, stable camera, and when coupled with a remote shutter, there is not even any need to touch the camera to fire shots. I love using the remote, as it means I can be close to the subject, controlling its position and angle, whilst taking the shot without causing any extra camera shake.
In the absence of a tripod, there are a number of ways in which you can keep your camera still, and when using a proper camera rather than a smartphone, facilitating a timer mode can also help to reduce the movement of the camera and to prevent the blurry effect in your photos.
This photo was taken in the evening time, with no daylight at all, but the natural highlights are achievable on any subject. Without the use of a light box or an off-camera flash, you can attempt to create your own light using a torch or a lamp, which allows you to direct the light at your desired angle, and using something as simple as a sheet of white card can help you to reflect the light onto the subject to really make it pop.
Essentially, getting to know the camera you are using and becoming familiar with the settings available to you is very important. Whether you are using a DSLR, a bridge or a smartphone, explore the functions thoroughly so that, when that moment presents itself, you are ready to catch it in all its glory, without having to fiddle about too much either before or after the shot is fired. If you have a camera that is equipped with a selection of modes such as shutter priority, aperture priority or a manual mode, you can override the automatic settings to capture higher quality photographs.
If you are ever in doubt about the way your chosen camera works or about the different features it offers, YouTube can provide a wealth of information, and you may be pleasantly surprised about what you are able to do with the flick of a switch! It is such a valuable resource as many will upload reviews and 'How-To' guides relating to the equipment you have and the task you are trying to complete. These videos can often be more helpful and much easier to understand than the instruction booklet that is provided with your camera!
The biggest thing to remember is explore and experiment with the equipment you have. Many things can be possible in poor light conditions with just a little bit of knowledge and creativity!