Be more sen­si­tive

The D5 of­fers ISO 3 mil­lion, but you can still shoot in the dark with an en­try-level D-SLR

NPhoto - - Feature -

As high­lighted on the pre­vi­ous page, the smaller max­i­mum aper­ture of a kit lens can re­strict your choice of shut­ter speed. Nowhere is this more ev­i­dent than when you’re shoot­ing in low light, where you might not be able to achieve a shut­ter speed fast enough to re­duce the ef­fects of cam­era shake, let alone freeze the mo­tion of a mov­ing sub­ject. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to stop tak­ing pic­tures: you can sim­ply in­crease the ISO on the cam­era. The ISO am­pli­fies the sig­nal from the sen­sor; the higher you push it, the less light is re­quired for a cor­rect ex­po­sure, so you can use faster shut­ter speeds.

The trade-off for pump­ing up the ISO is an in­crease in noise, some shifts in colour and a loss of dy­namic range (the spread of tones from shad­ows to high­lights that a cam­era can record). Noise is sim­i­lar to the grain that’s vis­i­ble in high-ISO film, only much less aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing. For­tu­nately, Nikon D-SLRs are renowned for their ex­cel­lent high-ISO per­for­mance; pic­ture qual­ity only re­ally drops off at ex­tremely high set­tings, which makes them suit­able for emer­gen­cies only. Still, for those once-in-a-life­time mo­ments, it’s bet­ter to have a sharp, noisy pic­ture than no pic­ture at all. You can al­ways ac­ti­vate a cam­era’s noise re­duc­tion

in the Shoot­ing Menu, although the soft­en­ing it ap­plies to the im­age re­duces the amount of detail too.

Slow down

If the sub­ject isn’t mov­ing, then an ob­vi­ous al­ter­na­tive to shoot­ing hand­held with a high ISO is to lock the cam­era onto a tri­pod. This gives you the free­dom to choose lower, cleaner ISO set­tings and the op­tion to fo­cus man­u­ally, should you find that your Nikon is strug­gling to aut­o­fo­cus in the dark. The trick here is to use Live View to fo­cus rather than the viewfinder, since the back­lit dis­play en­ables you to lit­er­ally see in the dark, while the Play­back zoom but­ton en­ables you to mag­nify de­tails and man­u­ally ad­just the fo­cus with great pre­ci­sion.

An­other op­tion is to shoot hand­held with a low ISO set­ting and em­brace the slow shut­ter speed as a way of de­lib­er­ately us­ing mo­tion blur for cre­ative ef­fect. This tech­nique of­ten works well with a burst of slow-sync flash, which en­ables a flash-frozen sub­ject and mo­tion blur from the long ex­po­sure to be com­bined within the same frame for dy­namic re­sults.

To en­able this, you’ll need to shoot in aper­ture-pri­or­ity or man­ual ex­po­sure mode, and then man­u­ally raise the built-in flash by press­ing the flash but­ton on the cam­era. Keep this but­ton pressed and ro­tate the com­mand dial un­til you’ve se­lected Slow Sync or Rear Cur­tain + Slow Sync in the flash menu. The lat­ter fires the flash at the end of the ex­po­sure, which can be use­ful if you’re shoot­ing mov­ing sub­jects. It means that any mo­tion blur recorded dur­ing the longer ex­po­sure will ap­pear to fall nat­u­rally be­hind the flash-lit sub­ject rather than awk­wardly in front of it. The draw­back is that it’s harder to pre­dict where the sub­ject will be in the frame when the flash fires.

There’s no sub­sti­tute for a tri­pod with night pho­tog­ra­phy. It will en­able you to use a low ISO and mid-range aper­ture, and to fire the cam­era ‘hands-free’ for pin-sharp re­sults

Know­ing the sub­ject is more im­por­tant than the type of cam­era you use. For in­stance, you’ll get more evoca­tive night shots when you shoot at twi­light rather than the dead of night, whether you use a D5 or a D3400

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