Low light photography, ISO, and capturing great moments

Low Light Photography and A Great Family Outing

Last weekend we took an opportunity to sneak out of town for the weekend and do some camping with our friends the O’Neal’s. Wendy (the O’Neal mama),  is a food blogger, check out her site  http://www.aroundmyfamilytable.com/, she has some great recipes!  When I take my camera with me on adventures like camping camping with my family, or vacations, I want to capture raw honest moments just like I would if I were photographing a client. Sometimes those moments entail low lighting situations, unlike a client session where I try to control as much of the set as possible especially lighting.  When I first started in photography, I was terrified of bumping up my ISO for fear of grain in my photographs. A fear that I have no longer, and haven’t for a while actually.  There are several things I take into account when setting up a shot, and I am going to list them for you below:

1. My subject

Am I photographing children at play? Or an object without movement.  In the photographs below where I photographed the O’Neal kiddos with my daughter swinging, I knew I needed my shutter speed to be above at least 125, and it was right after sunset so my lighting was low light.  With my shutter speed at 200, I was able to open my aperture all the way up at F1.4 using my 35mm lens, and I had my ISO up around 5k.  I normally would not shoot with ISO that high, but considering lighting conditions, speed, and subject I didn’t hesitate. I also knew that I could easily convert all of these photographs into black and white, where they look great with some grain. Giving them an almost like film appearance, not only that but the darker tones, help create the mood I was going for.

 Tips and photography tricks. ISO, Low lighting lifestyle photography
Tips and photography tricks. ISO, Low lighting lifestyle photography
 Tips and photography tricks. ISO, Low lighting lifestyle photography
Tips and photography tricks. ISO, Low lighting lifestyle photography

 

2. Lighting

Consider the source and consider the mood you wanting to pull through your photos. And above all else work with what you have! Earlier that day my daughter had caught a crawfish, and was so excited about them and to see that we could cook and eat them. Unfortunately for her, she battled out 2 hours in the rain (playing like a 4 year old and not missing a beat) only to find a single crawfish in her trap.  We brought it back to camp, boiled it so she could try it, and of course I had to photograph it. At this point, after dinner and around the camp fire, it was darker then dark. I had no light source, and had extended my ISO to it’s max, with an impossible shot to take. So I created my own light, with something a simple as flashlight overhead to get a picture of this little guy. My settings were F3.2, ISO 2000, 1/160. Again high ISO, low light, opened it up pretty wide.

Low lighting tips and tricks, ISO, Shutter speed, lighting www.melissadonaldsonphotography.com
Low lighting tips and tricks, ISO, Shutter speed, lighting www.melissadonaldsonphotography.com

 

3. White balance

I am a white balance fanatic, I carry or wear my Expo disc with me everywhere; Yes, even on trips like this.  White balance is so important, and it seems at time is so overlooked. I shoot in raw and yes, if I really wanted to I could spend hours trying to fix my white balance in post processing. But, let’s be honest who wants to do that? Every shot I take, should be correct in camera and require as little post processing as possible. Even if you don’t have an expo disc, learn your camera’s white balance settings, focus on its Kelvin values, or buy a Grey Card.

4. Shoot from the hip

Let kids be kids, and get down to their eye level. Let them play, giggle, and explore. It’s not unlike me to be laying on the ground with my camera shooting from their level or below. It really helps tell the story. Like the great Ansel Adams said, “A good photograph is knowing where to stand” or often in my case laying.

Again, important things to consider – your subject, check your white balance, set your shutter speed, check your ISO, create your own light source, and know where to stand or lay.

Here are some more great photographs I was able to capture from our camping trip at Bear Canyon Lake, Arizona. Not all are low light, but it is too beautiful to not share!  I was so excited, as we headed home and out of the pines, there was fog! A pretty rare even in Arizona, and especially for us desert dwellers. The foggy forest images below I actually shot while driving, and from inside our car. Couldn’t decide if I liked color or black and white better! What are your thoughts?

Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer

 

Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer
Trips and tricks for low light and great photographs, ISO, Speed, subject, arizona photographer

 

ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
Photography tips and tricks, Arizona newborn, family, child, and maternity photographer
Photography tips and tricks, Arizona newborn, family, child, and maternity photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer
ISO, speed, lighting, camping, Arizona photographer

 

Happy shooting!

Mel

 

 

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WELCOME

Hi there, I am Melissa. We moved to Arizona when I was five years old, so I consider myself a desert native. I am the mother of three wonderful children, a wife to an amazingly loving and extremely intelligent man, and a lover of animals. (We live on a small farm) I am the proud pet owner of a Chocolate Lab, miniature wiener dog, 26 chickens, 2 goats, a horse, and a miniature horse named Switch. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and 13 years ago I was able to form a successful small business doing what I love. I feel so blessed that God gave me this gift that I can pass along to others and bless them with.