Low Light Photography Tips for Dull Days
Once the festivities of Christmas and New Year are over, the decorations come down and we head back into our regular routines. We are then left to navigate January, one of the murkiest months of the year. Whilst gloom is not traditionally a photographer’s friend, I have put together some low light photography tips for grim days that will help you make the most of the prevailing conditions at this time of year.
Photography is the perfect pursuit for January. You get some good exercise whilst out exploring for subjects, you blow away the cobwebs with fresh air and, if you already have the equipment, it is free. Although, all photographers are continually on the lookout for the next shiny piece of kit to purchase, right?!
So, don’t let the grim days put you off. Take a look at these tips to find the best methods to create stunning images even in the depths of winter.
1. Silky Looking Waterfalls
This is my go-to option on dull days because the gloomy conditions actually make it easier to take striking photographs of waterfalls. The low light of winter means you can use slow shutter speeds that you simply couldn’t get away with in brighter and more sunny conditions. It also lowers the contrast levels, which allows for better detail in your images.
And that is how you can create those eye-catching, slow-moving water shots that will wow your family and friends.
My low light photography tips for capturing waterfalls are to use a tripod and a self timer. This eradicates camera shake and makes sure the detail on your photographs is pin sharp.
2. High Key Photos
Another advantage of the low contrast of dull light is that it allows for you to experiment with high key lighting that creates, ironically, brighter photographs whilst keeping the detail of the subject in the image.
In brighter conditions with more contrast, this approach can end up burning out the highlights in photo, stripping away the detail in the lighter tones. But, with dull,dank days, you maintain the detail whilst also accentuating the vibrance of the subject you are photographing.
To achieve this, experiment with exposure compensation on your camera to +1, +2 or even +3 to see what happens. This is the ideal way to create simple but arty looking compositions. Be aware that because you are brightening up a naturally dull environment
3. Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)
Another of my low light photography tips is to play around with intentional camera movement or ICM. This technique has become more popular over the years and is the perfect way to achieve a new angle on the traditional subjects that you photograph.
Essentially, you move the camera whilst taking the shot which can result in intriguing, abstract images that are fun to create! It’s fascinating to see what you can produce from a regular, everyday subject by experimenting with different shutter speeds and movements.
Use slow shutter speeds and move the camera very deliberately. You can also use a tripod for cleaner lines if that’s what you prefer. It’s the Marmite of photography styles – some love ICM and some hate it – but I always enjoy them, particularly at the coast.
4. "Panning for Success"
Panning is similar to ICM in a way, but rather than moving the camera to create a fully abstract image, you follow a moving subject with the intention of ending up with a blurred background, but a sharp(ish) subject.
Quite simply, move the camera with and at the same speed as your subject as you photograph it. The result should make the subject pop from the background and really stand out. Keep experimenting with shutter speeds to find the one that works best for the situation to create some fantastic images, even in poor lighting.
5. Night Photography on Dank Evenings
Night photography can produce some striking images if you know what to look for during the long winter nights. Seek out reflective surfaces, such as puddles (plenty of those around at this time of year!) and observe how they reflect the artificial lights that surround you.
This is an effective method to make areas like cobbled streets look much more attractive in the gloom of nighttime and to make the most of the photographic opportunities you have. Even if you are stuck at work all day, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get out and capture the world around you in style!