How to shoot video with low light | Mosaicoon Blog

How to shoot video with low light


Low light is unavoidable in many cases. Just think about filming during concerts and other nighttime events, or with bad weather conditions. Even though it can be tricky, there are some solutions for shooting with low light to avoid that grainy, muddy effect.
In this video,  
DP JP Caldeano gives some tips to solve some common low light issues and make your footage look a lot better without having to buy a whole new or expensive equipment.


Caldeano highlights four basic things that play a key role when you don’t have a lot of light.

1. ISO

Shooting at a higher ISO means increasing your camera’s sensitivity to light, but can also cause grainy images. It all depends on your camera’s sensor: a Full Frame sensor can handle much higher ISOs than a Micro 4/3 sensor (eg.: Micro 4/3 at ISO 800 = Full Frame at ISO 3200). You can usually increase ISOs up to 400 without getting too much noise, while higher values might degrade the image a bit.

2. Shutter speed

Reducing the shutter speed, you can increase the amount of time your camera’s sensor is exposed to light. The slower the shutter speed (1/8, 1/2, etc.), the brighter the image will be. A basic rule of thumb is to make sure the denominator of your shutter speed is about double your frame rate. For example, if you’re shooting at 24fps, your shutter speed should be 1/50. To solve low light issues and allow the light in, you might want to decrease it a bit more. Take into account the downside of having more exposure, that is more motion blur on your image.

3. Lenses

The size of your aperture also influences how much light is let into the camera. Lenses with a wide aperture (f1.2, f1.4, etc.) allow more light into the sensor, thus they work better in dark environments than those with a narrow aperture (f22, f16, etc.). Prime lenses generally have wider apertures than zooms. There are few exceptions though, like the Sigma 18-35 f1/8 zoom lens. However, remember that a wider aperture leads to a shallow depth of field and to a bokeh effect.

4. Lighting

There may not be a whole lot of light in the place you’re shooting, but you should still try to use any source of light you can find. Street lamps, neon signs, smartphone flashlights, windows with light coming out of them will help you add a little more illumination and avoid the downsides of your camera settings.

To make a quick recap:

  • higher ISOs bring grain to your image
  • a slower shutter speed adds motion blur
  • lenses with a wider aperture lead to shallow depth of field and bokeh.

In other words, new issues always come up when you try to solve the low light problem. But don’t be discouraged, and work with your camera settings along with environmental lighting to find the best compromise.

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