Photography in challenging types of light
Basic Photography Digital Photography Low Light Photography
May 23, 2018

Photography cannot exist without light, both literally and otherwise! It’s how you are able to use the available light in your images that are actually going to define your photography game.
In this blog, we are going to discuss the challenges of lighting conditions during various times of the day and how to adapt to the changes and continue making some fine images.

Early morning mist


If you thought getting up early for the shoot is a challenge, embrace yourselves to shoot in the mist! Shooting in low light pushes your gear to the extreme and if you add the mist to that, it becomes something really challenging.

Shoot in manual mode. Bump up the ISO in your camera to the maximum usable value. Keep the aperture to the maximum possible in your lens. Check what shutter speed you are actually getting. If it's anywhere faster than 1/80th of a second, you may be good to get through with most of your shots. If not, uses the slow shutter speed to create the motion blur sort of effect. Now that we are done with the exposure, we will try to tackle the fog. There is an old saying that goes like, "Wherever there is a challenge, there is an opportunity". You can get some really nice creative shots in the fog. You can use the natural suspense of the environment to make those mysteriously beautiful images. There is another way to get rid of the mist. In post-processing, there is a dehaze option readily available in most software. Use that to remove the haze in the image. This may not be completely removing the fog, but it will make most of your images usable.


The hot afternoon


I am pretty sure you have faced this situation. You are shooting in the hot afternoon with the overhead sun blazing down. Whatever you are shooting is being marred by the awkward combination of very harsh shadows and overly bright highlights. Photographers hate this, to be very honest. Photographers avoid this, to be very precise! But what if you have to shoot in this condition?

i) Use a flash. It may be an external flashgun or even your cameras pop up flash. This will fill in the harsh shadows that are cutting through your subject. Use a flash diffuser to soften the light and make it look natural.
ii) Many of us hate flashes. I do. If you are not comfortable using a flash, you can use a reflector. This is cheap and readily available. Use the reflector to reflect the natural light on the subject. Even this will fill in the shadows.


Bright light in the background.


This is also another common scenario. We face this issue mostly on beaches where the setting sun is extremely bright and whatever we shoot becomes a silhouette. This is because the camera is metering for the entire frame. It is trying to compensate for the extremely bright background by underexposing the image and hence your subject is getting underexposed too. Hence, the result is the silhouette.
i) Use spot metering in your camera. Keep the spot on your subject and meter for the same. Now the camera will meter for that spot on your subject and not the entire frame. You will find that the subject is exposed properly. However, the background may get highly overexposed. ii) Flashgun or a reflector can be used to fill in the underexposed areas on your subject. In case you are using a flash, use a diffuser to soften the light to make it look natural. You don't want the scenario where your subject looks like a deer in front of headlights!
iii) Shoot in raw. Expose the highlights properly so you don't burn out your image. Recover the shadow details in post-processing.


The low light scenario


Finally, we have arrived at the dreaded low light scenario. This may be indoors or outdoors. If there is no light, there is no photography, obviously. So how can you shoot in these conditions?

i) Outdoors - If you are shooting after sunset, you need to have a super stable set up so that you can use slow shutter speeds to make up for the lack of light. Boost your ISO to the maximum possible. This is where full-frame cameras come in handy. 
ii) Indoors - You can really get creative here. Use a single source of artificial light to create a spotlight effect on your subject. A lot of this is being done in weddings these days. You can also use an external flash and bounce it off any of the walls in the angle you want.


Cloudy day


This is actually one of the ideal lighting conditions to shoot in. There is no harsh light to spoil your fun. The clouds act as natural diffusers, softening the sunlight for you. But then why is this condition even making its way into this blog? Well, firstly, clouds move. So the lighting condition will change frequently. Apart from this, if you meter for the entire frame, the sky will get blown out as the camera will try to expose the underexposed objects properly. 
i) Use spot metering when the lighting conditions are changing frequently. The camera will meter according to the amount of light on your subject at that very point in time, thus negating the frequent changes of light.
ii) Use a graduated ND filter with the dark part pointed upwards to expose the sky properly. These filters are available easily in the market and can help you up your landscape game.




Lighting challenges will always be there. Excess light or the lack of it, you must be prepared to shoot in all conditions. For me personally, these are the challenges that actually improve your photography and make it fun. Fear the challenges and you will struggle. Embrace them, and you will discover ways to get around them...
Enjoy the challenges each condition throws at you!

Basic Photography Digital Photography Low Light Photography
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