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A Shot In The Dark

How to capture light streams and take photos in the dark

Suns down, lights are out, guess that means we're done shooting for the day, right?


Having little to no light can lead to some of our most creative images in photography! Today I want to talk to you about making the most of low light situations with light streams [or drawing with light!].

What you will need:

• Flashlight [your phone's flashlight will do!]

• Tripod

This technique is actually very simple! Remember how we talked about shutter speed? Well that is going to come in hand today! The first thing you will want to do is adjust your settings so you have a very slow shutter speed. This will allow the shutter to remain open longer, taking in as much ambient light and light from your flashlight as it can.

This slow shutter speed will also give you time to move around with your flashlight to create designs or backlighting.

Let me show you some examples, provide settings used, and explain how they were taken.

Lightstream example

Shutter Speed: 13" (thirteen seconds)

F-Stop: 10

ISO: 250

For this shot, I had Conor sit on a chair very still. If you are going to have people in the shot, you will need them to remain very still. You want to capture the movement of the light source, you do not want to have your subject moving [or maybe you do, I don't know your life!].

I hit the shutter release on my camera [which was secure on a tripod], took a flashlight and darted it around him.

Because you are moving, unlit, you will not appear in the image. However, if your shutter speed is on for a long time, you will want to make sure to turn OFF the flashlight occasionally. Too much ambient light will show your blur. The slower the shutter speed, the more ambient light it lets in. And if ambient light is reflecting off you, you will be exposed!

Failed lightstream with ghosting

Shutter Speed: 10" (thirteen seconds)

F-Stop: 13

ISO: 500

The settings for the picture above allowed a little too much ambient light in. As a result, you can see my ghosted image. Adjust your settings to lower ISO, higher F-stop, or shorter shutter speed if you are getting this ghosted effect. But only change one setting at a time or you'll over-do it.

Also note: if you are going to try and write out a message in lights, you'll need to do so BACKWARD. Try it out, you'll see what I mean.

Aside from those technical tips, all I can tell you is to have fun with it and get creative!

Lightstream mask photo

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