Im­prove your im­ages

Use these pro­fes­sional tips to set a high base­line stan­dard for your work

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

In any chal­leng­ing cre­ative medium, the dis­tinc­tion be­tween ex­pert or pro­fes­sional work and that of in­di­vid­u­als with less ex­pe­ri­ence is no­tice­ably ex­ag­ger­ated. The na­tive dif­fi­cul­ties of low-light pho­tog­ra­phy make it a chal­leng­ing genre in which to es­tab­lish an artis­tic process, for yield­ing unique pho­tographs with above-stan­dard tech­ni­cal ex­e­cu­tion. Be­fore con­sid­er­ing how to add cre­ative ‘em­bel­lish­ments’ to your low-light and as­tro im­ages, it is ad­vis­able to first ad­dress how to se­cure a qual­ity base­line stan­dard, free from the char­ac­ter­is­tic fail­ings.

Firstly, the lack of avail­able light lim­its qual­ity by in­tro­duc­ing dis­tract­ing noise from two sources – a lower gra­di­ent sig­nal-to-noise ra­tio and the re­quire­ment for length­ened ex­po­sures. These slow shut­ter speeds can only be re­duced by open­ing the aper­ture, which may not be vi­able in a land­scape shot, or by in­creas­ing the ISO. Ei­ther way noise is largely un­avoid­able, so know­ing how to com­bat it ef­fec­tively is es­sen­tial.

Se­condly it is more chal­leng­ing to as­sess the qual­ity of im­ages in the field, both pre­and post-cap­ture, due to low­ered vis­i­bil­ity. Be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the cam­era, the pho­tog­ra­pher’s skill and cre­ative out­look can both in­flu­ence im­age suc­cess. Fore­most is the user’s un­der­stand­ing of how their equip­ment func­tions. A lack of knowl­edge will mean they are un­able to pre­dict where it will strug­gle and how to com­pen­sate for these de­fi­cien­cies. In ad­di­tion, an in­suf­fi­cient grasp of the spe­cific chal­lenges of the genre will mean a pho­tog­ra­pher is un­pre­pared to iden­tify, as­sess and de­vise a so­lu­tion for these prob­lems, as they do not know to look out for such oc­cur­rences. Po­ten­tial so­lu­tions be­gin with a de­ci­sion to ei­ther di­rectly com­bat an is­sue or, if this is not fea­si­ble within the con­fines of the en­vi­ron­ment, take steps to in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties to iden­tify prob­lems early. When work­ing in test­ing con­di­tions, adopt a ‘shoot more’ phi­los­o­phy, whereby you take mul­ti­ple vari­a­tions of each com­po­si­tion, for the ben­e­fit of re­dun­dancy – should an im­age fail, you have a bet­ter chance of find­ing a re­place­ment.

“Be­fore con­sid­er­ing to add cre­ative ‘em­bel­lish­ments’, first ad­dress how to se­cure a qual­ity base­line stan­dard”

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