Low Light Photograph

Welcome to Leiden Studios first educational post.

This image was actually posted on Facebook late last year with some of the details that go with the image, but I thought it was a great way to start a discussion about how Leiden Studios goes about it’s image creation.

Nicole was one of our beautiful brides from last year. The image was taken on the second floor of Cactus Saloon in Flinders Street Townsville and our thanks goes to Cactus Saloon for the use of their premises. A lot of what we do could not be done without the co-operation of the clubs and pubs around Townsville.

The basic set up has a door to the left of Nicole that goes out onto a deck and provides a natural light source coming across her from left to right. She is place next to the door with her head turned towards the light source. Having her face the other way would put her face into shadow and would need to be corrected by either filling with flash or video light or similar, or a reflector. The last option would still be difficult to get enough light into her face.

Most of our photography is done in “manual” mode with the highlight alert set to on. Weddings are all about the dress and nothing spoils a shoot more that over exposing the dress and losing detail, especially if a lot of money has been spent on the dress. We also shoot all our images in “raw” rather than jpgs as this retains all the details of the image and allows us to make decisions on the image later in post production.

So for this shot the details were ISO 3200, f2.8 @ 1/125 second. This allows you to keep the depth of field narrow and focused on Nicole. You could play with the numbers and allow more detail in the barrels to come out, but you need to keep a close eye on the shutter speed to ensure a sharp image. The ISO could go to 6400 remembering that noise will increase at this number. However I would rather a sharp image with noise than a soft image without.

So the options would be to decrease the shutter speed, maybe with an increase in aperture, this will lighten the barrels and give a bit more detail in the raw image. However our look is probably a bit more dark and moody and by shooting in raw format we can bring back detail in the shadows in post production.

It would also be difficult to photograph this image on any auto mode. The camera would read the image as dark and try to lighten it. Taking a spot reading from the dress would under expose the image. I’ll post and article at a later date about why the cameras does that, but it is out of the scope of this article.

So our raw image looked like this straight out of the camera. Not a lot needed post production which is exactly what we are trying to achieve on our shoots. One of the worst things with Photoshop is the notion that “I can fix that in Photoshop”. More time is wasted trying to fix technical problems with the original capture than anything else in photography. Those new to the industry commonly make that mistake, I know I did. You only make it once though, no mater what your Photoshop skills, a poorly captured image will never look as good as a well captured image, ever. Get it right in camera the first time. Take a little time with the capture, and have a look at the image on the back of the camera. In doubt, check the histogram. Still in doubt, then do a bracket exposure around your current exposure.

Looking at the raw image, all it needed was a little straightening, the door is distracting so it is removed, the image is converted to Black & White using Nik software and a slight HDR effect is added also in Nik to increase the detail in the barrels and the dress. The right side of the face was lightened a little using Shadows/highlights in Image>Adjustments and to add a little more detail into the barrels.

The image has pride of place in Phil & Nicole’s wedding album. Thanks to the couple, their wedding was a wonderful event, one we will not forget and we look forward to working with them in the future.

Any comment are welcome.