Monday, March 1, 2021

Handheld Shooting At Night

New Technology - New Possibilities

I have always been passionate about low light photography. There's something magical about the capturing the faint light that's available when the world is dark.

Cities take on a particularly alluring visual quality at night. Their complex beauty is enhanced by a multitude of colors of light from street lamps, shops and restaurants, and moving vehicles.

a photo of a steam pipe on a manhattan new york avenue at night
Steamy Night - Manhattan (2021)

I try to capture the highest-quality images that I can. In low light conditions, that usually means working with the camera on a tripod. In dim light, typically we need long shutter speeds in order to gather enough light to make a proper exposure. Our bodies can't hold the camera still long enough to do this without creating blurry photos.

a photo of shops at a new york city intersection at night
Shops On A Corner - New York (2021)

I enjoy working on a tripod, but there are times when I like the freedom handheld shooting. I can grab photos in a crowd or even dash out into the traffic lanes momentarily. 

Fortunately, advances in camera technology have made handheld night photography a reality. Mobile phones achieve good results by taking a burst of photos and using computational algorithms to clean up noise an other imperfections.

a photo of a neon sign at a new york juice bar at night
Juice Bar Neon - New York (2021)

With a modern digital cameras, noise is well-controlled. We can use fast shutter speeds in dark conditions, because the camera doesn't need a lot of light to create an image. Couple this light-collecting efficiency with fast lenses and in-body image stabilization, and handheld shooting at night has become practical and effective.

a photo of a new york city comedy club at night
Comedy Club - New York City (2021) - Handheld HDR

I still use a tripod when I can and when I need to squeeze every last bit of quality out of an image, but I'm able to take photos now handheld that rival that quality and give me a whole lot more freedom to grab night shots in a fast-paced city.

Sony a7R III and a7R IV
Lenses: Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA and 85mm f/1.8

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.
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