The difficulties of low light photography...
I'd been asked to photograph a local fundraising event by Hightop circus. An exciting prospect as it was circus based (I love nothing more than a good circus show!) but it was also a shoot that would come with challenges. It's Halloween, so imagine dark room, fast moving performers and spot lighting, potentially a photographers nightmare. I hired a camera for this shoot, I'd heard the cannon had stoic capabilities in low lighting so I decided to give it a try. To complement the camera I hired the 70-200ml f2.8 cannon lens, all from a local hire shop lens lab who offer a very fast and reliable service.
I was fortunate to be allowed access all areas so managed to get some back stage shots of hair and make up and the performers doing their warm ups. The atmosphere prior to a show is always electric with a touch of fear thrown in and it's a great time to get some natural, candid shots. The show began, with it's impressive 14 act line up, ranging from hula Hooper's, aerialists and dancers, all I might add were spectacular. It was fast paced and the added addition of LED hula hoops and fluorescent costumes kept me on my toes!
The Cannon camera was definitely a good investment for this shoot, it held its own, the 62 point focus system was on point and the colours are some of the best out of camera I have seen. The lens although heavy was perfect, enough zoom but with a wide aperture to get as much light in as possible, most of the acts were solo so I didn't need to worry about the small depth of field too much. If I wasn't a Sony addict I would seriously consider investing in this system.
Have you got a low light event coming up? If you're a bit daunted by it I've listed some helpful tips below to make sure you're prepared and have the right equipment to get the job done.
There's plenty of information online about the perfect lenses but to save you time here's my go to event lenses..
70-200ml 2.8 ~ 24-70mm 1.8 50mm 1.8 ~ 85mm 1.8
There's some incredible glass out there which usually comes at an incredible price. if you haven't got the budget remember there are some great options to rent equipment. I use lens lab who offer a very reasonable solution.
Most events involve dark spaces and a lot of movement so to avoid blurry pics you'll need to keep the shutter speed as fast as possible but at a speed that still allows you to hand hold. Usually anything faster than 60 sec can be hand held without too much blur but you may need to push it slower if you can. Over time and with practise this gets easier.
Where possible use a tripod to allow a slower shutter
You want to be getting as much light to the sensor as possible so keep your aperture wide! Bare in mind you'll be working with a narrow depth of field, this will create some effective bokeh which customers tend to enjoy.
If you need to crank your ISO up don't worry too much as most editing software comes with effective noise reduction options, you'll loose some detail if you push it too high so be gentle!
Practise, practise, practise....
Personally I love the challenges that low light event photography brings, I thrive on the technical challenges and I get a huge adrenaline buzz as most events tend to be fast paced and oozing with creativity, I find it really pushes my technical skills to the max. If you're thinking about heading down the event photographer route I'd recommend getting in touch with local events and offering your services for free or on a prints only charge, this will help to boost your confidence and get a decent body of work for your portfolio. Not only will you be getting great shots but you'll soon be going to tons of amazing events. Win Win....